Archive for October 2006

Linux PVR

October 31, 2006

This is more of a why-to than a how-to about using Mythtv and FC5 to build a PVR. Personal Video Recorder.

For those who dont know, let me explain. It all started with TIVO. TIVO is a digital recording device that can be programmed to record multimedia content off TV and radio. Programming is as simple as selecting material from a graphical presentation and deciding if single or multiple episodes should be recorded.

A PVR is also a digital recording device but not as intelligent as a TIVO.

Linux is a Unix like operating system that can be used to build a TIVO like system using Mythtv. Linux and Mythtv are free software. TIVO and PVR are expensive to own or rent. A Linux/Mythtv system is much more affordable and can do more that even the TIVO. It can automatically skip commercials while acting like a TIVO.

Regardless of which system is used, it is nice to be able to service both broadcast and cable TV. In most cases this is a mute point because cable includes local broadcast stations, but what if it does’nt. That is my situation.

My PVR is running on an Athlon 1800 with 256meg ram, 80gig hard drive, and Hauppage PVR-250 card.

It takes input from my old TV antenna, decodes the signals, and allows me to choose which programs to record and/or watch. That is it. Nothing more.

I already have a dish network setup using a PVR they supply and that setup handles all the cable stuff. I dont have the local channels included in the cable setup because I could not justify paying for something I already had and putting up with a second dish just for local channels.

My original intent was to use the Linux/PVR to replace the rented PVR but it turned out that was not a viable option. First, 80gig is not a large enough hard drive. Then there was the problem of controling channels. I do have an rf remote to handle the cable stuff but the Linux/PVR is in a seperate room and is IR. No problem, I just run a cable with an IR led on the end to the front of the dish network box and let the computer handle the channel select. The dish network box will respond to IR as well as RF remote control.

I never got that far. Mainly because I only had 80 gig of storage on the hard drive. To make an overall system work, I would need at least 200gig and a couple of 250gig drives would have been ideal.

That probably won’t happen anytime soon, so I am using the Linux/PVR system for local programing only.

Does it work? Yes, indeed! Works great. It also allows me to move media content from the PVR to the Linux system so that I can make DVDs and recordings of the cable programing.

However, if I had to do it again, I would go for a faster computer and most definately shoot for at least 300gig of total hard drive storage as well as invest in a dual channel TV receiver card.

Then, I could get rid of the DishNetwork PVR which I am still renting for 5 bucks a month.

Selling Radios

October 31, 2006

It is not at all unusual for a radio amateur who has had more than a few decades invested in the hobby to own all the kinds of equipment he ever had. On the other hand, it is rare for someone to have held on to every piece of equipment they ever acquired. A certain amount of that stuff was bought back after it was discovered that it still had value.

Most of us don’t realize what we have until it is gone. Then we attempt to get it back and end up paying more than it is worth.

I am sure this is true of many things but I know for a fact that is the case with old radios. Whatever the reason for selling, the most common reason is that you found something better. So you should not be offended if buyers don’t want to pay a lot for your old stuff. Makes no difference what the condition. Working or not. Clean or dirty. All beat up or in like-new condition. It is old. You obviously don’t want it or you would not be selling it. Most of us are reluctant to pay a premium for something old and unwanted.

Unless you are a dealer in new radios, there is not much money to be made. You wont get rich selling radios regardless of how many you have. At least that is my experience.


October 31, 2006

With a major election only weeks away I thought it might be good to review some before and after scenarios of past elections.

Before:I promise no new taxes.
After:So they increased the rate on the old taxes as high as possible.

Before:I will fix all the potholes.
After:Now we need a bond issue to raise the money to fix the potholes.

Before:Vote for me, I promise a change.
After: Yeah, we got change all right. Taxes went up, the economy tanked, stock market came close to crashing and we were repeatedly attacked by terrorists.

Before:No tax breaks for the rich.
After:No tax breaks for anyone. Rich was defined as anyone who has any money at all.

Before:I promise a bipartisan ownership of power.
After:We discovered that the definition of bipartisan was:’What is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine too, and I am going to keep it all.”

Before:I am a moderate.
After:No, he turned out to be crooked through and through. No moderation at all.

Where is the BEEF!

October 31, 2006

Some years ago that expression was made famous by a little old lady asking ‘where is the beef’ as she inspected her recently purchased hamburger. The ad was very popular and parodied relentlessly.

For some time now our Texas governor has promised Texas property owners relief from unrealistically high property taxes. He actually estimated the relief to be an average of 2000 dollars per year per property owner.

I recently got my letter from the tax people and discovered that my property tax had increased!

Where is the BEEF?!

This Perry fellow must think we are all stupid! I bet ‘Perry’ is an old indian name meaning ‘fellow who thinks people are stupid’.

His answer to this abusive behavior is to justify it by claiming that the increase would have been much higher had he not had a hand in it.

I say it is time to remove the hands of government from our pocketbooks.

Matters not who is or is not in office. They all live off taxes and can live better the more taxes they collect. They all make promises they don’t keep, to steal votes they don’t deserve, to grow rich on tax money wasted on programs and services that are close to worthless.

No, we don’t politicians. We need a grass roots proposition like they had in California some years ago. Something that really will deliver the beef. Or at least let us keep our share of it.

This is a Political Ad

October 28, 2006

When I hear that phrase I turn my mind off. Put it in neutral until the danger is past. Can you believe the lies of a liar when he is lying? I used to think one party was more likely to stretch the truth than the other. Now I am not so sure. I think it is a thing politicians use to win favor. I am not sure how lying wins favor. I am not a politician. Evidently politicians must believe in the power of lies or they would not all be so quick to use these tools of deception.

Lately they refer to it as spin. Putting a favorable spin on an unfavorable event. HA! That is just a lie smothered in the gravy of self delusion and ultimate denial. Had I tried that kind of ‘spin’ on my parents when I was young they would have spun my ripe young butt into a corner and kept it there for a week.

I think that is what should be done to these self indulgent politicians. Of both parties.

Used to be you could tell what a candidate would do by his party affiliation. Now days you have liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. What does that mean?

I guess that is better than those claiming to be moderates. Moderate my behind! They pander to all until they get elected, then, off comes the sheeps clothing and you find out that they are extremists of the most unpleasent kind.

Stuff like that makes it difficult to vote with any sort of conviction. I have often thought there should be a third option in every election. A vote for no. If it is a vote for Governor, there should be a no vote indicating a desire to do without a Governor until the next election. Works for presidents, congressmen, and senators too. Vote no and force them to get real jobs.

You could say this writer is undecided. Hell, I am damn well confused and frustrated too. This election I am going to do a write-in vote. Where ever I can I am going to write in my name because I seem to be the only one I care to trust.

My Telephone

October 27, 2006

With email, instant messaging, and blog traffic, the telephone is quickly becoming a less desirable means of staying in touch. At least that is the case in this household.

Even though we have opted to stop telemarketers we still get calls from people asking for money. People we don’t even know. They claim to be collecting for charity which is still allowed by law, but I consider that telemarketing even though they are not selling anything.

I consider it the ultimate insult to have a stranger call me on my phone trying to scam me out of my money, and I usually respond accordingly. Once I asked a telemarketer, ‘If it is such a good deal why do you have to bother people at home to sell it?’ The line went silent for many moments as they searched for a comeback.

Anymore we do not respond at all. If a call comes in, we let the answering machine take it. All callers to the machine are politely asked to leave a message. Some do. Some don’t. We do not care. We enjoy a quiet evening of reflection with the ringer turned off.

Least you think us callous, we do not have to care. It is just the two of us. The kids have grown up and moved out long ago. Most of our relatives live in other cities. The most economical means of communication is email for those who have computers.

I think we would be able to return more calls if we suggested they leave a message that would make us want to call them back.

A message like ‘This is (someone I have never heard of), please return my call. My number is (blah, blah, and more blah)’, is certain to get erased.

We do not return calls to people we do not know unless they give us good reason to do so. Even then we are reluctant to return such calls unless they have stated the nature of their call.

Generally, if it is a message from someone we do not know, we don’t call back. We do not conduct business on the phone anymore. It is far too easy for an unknown caller to pretend to be something they are not. Especially when they initiate the call. That is something we are keenly aware of particularly when they start asking for personal information.

Calls from unknown people are always unwanted. They are the equivalent of spam in email and have no business being answered.
The people who make such calls are abusing an otherwise useful service.

I can understand someone in sales prospecting for customers by calling commercial phone numbers of prospective companies. There is never an excuse to call a private phone number of a person you do not know assuming he wants to talk to an intrusive nobody.

Pork Chop Casserole

October 24, 2006

While this dish in not really new, it is different from anything that has previously been tried here using pork chops.

On a recent trip to visit family, I decided to cook supper. There were plenty of pork chops in the freezer so pork chops it was.

Intending to fry them after breading, I decided that baking was a better plan. I put them in a casserole dish, added some unpeeled potatoes, and onion. I was ready to begin baking but those potatoes crowding the chops just did not look right.

I removed the potatoes, but the dish looked like it needed something. I diced a quarter section of a bell pepper and added that. Then added a diced tomato. Added some more onion, and finally emptied a can of concentrated mushroom soup on top of everything else. No water. Just the concentrated soup.

All that went into the oven set to 350 degrees and stayed there for an hour.

The potatoes were cut up, boiled and mashed and a can of corn was opened for the vegtable part of the meal.

Mashed potatoes covered with the mushroom soup mixture, baked pork chops, and corn.

The end result was pretty tasty and it was just as good as left overs two days later. The bell pepper contributed most of the taste and there was more than enough salt in the mushroom soup concentrate. Probably will add some pepper to spice things up when we try this again.