Log in

Krellan's LiveJournal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
JoSH Lehan

[ website | My Website ]
[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Put up ham radio antenna [Sep. 29th, 2012|12:21 pm]
JoSH Lehan
Wow, haven't posted here in a while.

A big accomplishment in my life is that I've put up a ham radio antenna over the house! Works great. However, its physical appearance is not the cleanest, so now I'm trying to clean up its looks somewhat.
linkpost comment

Digital TV moving beyond ATSC [Aug. 28th, 2011|08:56 pm]
JoSH Lehan
[music |Sirius XM Dark Wave]

This is a rather cool development. I hope it goes through. There's talk of fixing digital TV by allowing broadcasters to use other formats besides ATSC. I don't know if it will catch on, because it would require everybody to go through the "converter box" hassle yet again, but ATSC is badly broken, and this is good to see.



It would be great for the USA to adopt the COFDM television standard, as a good portion of the rest of the world already has. It is technically superior in many ways, among other things, it's usable on smaller devices such as mobile phones (this is seen as one of the last vestiges of hope for the broadcast TV industry).

China has what appears to be a really good standard.


Getting off the subject, but as China dominates in manufacturing, it was only a matter of time until they dominate in design and standardization as well. It's a shame, but it was well predicted. The entire series of four articles is well worth reading here:


I could summarize it here, but two words will do: we're screwed....
linkpost comment

Washing machine woes [Jul. 16th, 2011|11:04 pm]
JoSH Lehan
[mood |wet]
[music |Splish Splash]

We've had our Maytag Neptune MAH8700AWW washing machine for just over 5 years now, long enough for the extended warranty to expire. Today, it had its first major failure.

The washer's internal hot water valve jammed, in the wide open position. I'm lucky to have noticed it: the water was just pouring into the washing basin, and the machine had the undocumented "OE" error code flashing. I looked it up, and this meant "overflow error", where the sensor had detected too much water.

To their credit, Maytag has implemented 2 rather cool features, to deal with this:

1) When the overflow error triggers, the washer goes into something I call "panic drain mode". It stops whatever it's doing in the regular cycle, and simply tries to drain out the water as fast as it fills in. In this case, the washer basically turned itself into a hose: water came in, water drained out, almost nothing in the path to stop it. I'm glad the washer used its internal draining system as much as possible, avoiding the catastrophic failure of the water overflowing the internal washing basin itself, which would have spilled water all into the guts of the machine.

2) If the washer breaks and is unable to complete its cycle normally, it still lets the user select "spin only" mode, to simply spin and drain the water out of the basin as much as possible. I was able to run this mode to completion, so the washer then let me open the door handle and get the clothing out. That is one of the major risks of front-loader washing machines: when they fail, they tend to fail in the locked position, and your sopping wet clothes are then physically stuck in there until you can manually release the door mechanism somehow. So, I'm lucky I was able to use this mode to achieve a cycle completion and thus convince the machine to please unlock the door.

Our utility sink was almost overflowing, when I first noticed the problem. I'm really glad that subconsciously I realized something was wrong, the washing machine cycle was taking a lot longer than it normally does, and went in there to check! I quickly opened the garage door, grabbed our 5 gallon bucket, and started bailing out the sink, running buckets to the storm drain in the street. I was then able to use a plunger to convince the rest of the water to go down the drain, which had gotten overloaded by the huge amount of water that it was being asked to deal with.

Once the sink level was lowered, water was still coming in, even though I had already turned off the washer, so I knew it was a physical problem. I then closed the faucets behind the washing machine as hard as I safely could. This slowed the flow of water to a steady drip. I couldn't shut off the water completely. This is a typical failure mode of a washing machine faucet, which is typically left wide open for the lifetime of the machine. Because the valve is never closed, when it comes time to actually close it, the failure manifests itself. Who knows what sand/crud over the years has gotten in there.

The hot water at this point was merely lukewarm, because our 25-year-old water heater (another ticking time bomb in this house, but that's another story) obviously couldn't keep up with a wide open hot water valve. This was a blessing in disguise, because it also meant I didn't have to worry about burning myself on the hot water while dealing with the problem.

I have now stabilized the situation, and the only remaining problem is the steady drip of water that comes through the washing machine. Both of the valves that should stop this drip are failed: the faucet (only a trickle), and the washing machine's internal valve (stuck wide open). So, I need to go bail out the washing basin every so often. I have the door open, in order to get a little help from evaporation, but it's still enough to start overflowing onto the floor of the garage if I leave it unattended for too long. It will create a puddle there, looking similar to the other puddle that's created whenever it rains (yet another story).

So, I'm in need of an appliance repair person (to repair the hot water valve inside of the washing machine, and anything else that it took with it), and a plumber (to redo the faucets behind the washing machine so they can actually shut off, and also fix the utility sink so it stops leaking and snake the drain so it has a chance of keeping up with the water should this happen again). Ah, money. No new ham radio for me this month!

So, it's Saturday, and I have my pocket stuffed full of quarters. Off to play the new Tron machine at the Pacific Pinball Museum, right? Nope, today, it's off to the laundromat....
link4 comments|post comment

Cleaning up photos on iPhone [Jan. 15th, 2011|07:20 pm]
JoSH Lehan
[music |The hum of an external hard drive]

Dealing with music on the iPhone is easy, because there's only 2 places they have to be in sync: the iPhone itself, and iTunes. However, photos are non-trivial, because there's a 3rd place now added: iPhoto. Generally, dealing with things on the Mac is very smooth and well thought-out, but there's still a disappointing lack of integration between iTunes and iPhoto.

I ran into a dilemma: My "Camera Roll" folder, because I made the mistake of choosing "No" to the "Delete photos after importing?" question prompted to me by iPhoto, had been filling up. It's taking a lot of data. I see the photos in iPhoto, and on the iPhone. However, the "Camera Roll" is hidden from the view of iTunes, even when you turn off the "Sync everything" feature to get manual control over what to sync. All you can see is individual albums created under iPhoto, and "Camera Roll" is evidentially a special album that is excluded from the list.

I couldn't use iTunes to remove the "Camera Roll". I also couldn't use iPhoto. Unfortunately, once you import a photo into iPhoto, that's it: you are no longer able to access the photo on your device. It will be invisible to iPhoto. That's a big problem, because what if you changed your mind and wanted to delete those photos in your "Camera Roll" after importing them now? You can't do it anymore, because iPhoto will show zero photos on your device, because it's already imported them all, and it won't detect the same photo more than once (I assume this is a feature added by Apple to prevent people from doubling-up all their photos, which is a common problem when trying to deal with large amounts of photos).

The built-in "Photos" icon on the iPhone will see the "Camera Roll", and let me delete photos, but unfortunately, only *one at a time*. Since I have over a thousand photos piled up, that I'm trying to organize in an effort to free up more space, that was not acceptable. Sadly, there's no "Select All" feature that I could find.

The solution, after much research, is to use a more obscure, older, program on the Mac. It's called "Image Capture". It works great! You plug in your iPhone, and it will see exactly the opposite of what iPhoto sees: Image Capture will see *only* the Camera Roll, and nothing else. That's great news, for solving this problem. Now, I can use "Image Capture" and it happily imported all those photos to a new folder (as a backup), and there's a handy checkbox "Delete after import" that does exactly that! Very nice.

So, it seems that there's multiple layers of photo support in the Mac universe: there's the very basic "Camera Roll" folder, which holds all pictures that haven't been placed into any other folder, that's seen by "Image Capture" which moves the contents of this folder directly into a folder on your hard drive, just as a pure file (no photo processing done on it at all). Then, at a higher layer, there's iPhoto (which can import from "Camera Roll" and other pure file folders, and organize a collection of photos into photo albums, as well as do photo retouching, and file format conversion). iTunes works at the iPhoto layer, seeing only albums from iPhoto.

So, what I've learned, is that each tool has its own purpose. The photo-handling tools on the Mac are rather powerful, but unfortunately, the different layers at which they each operate on is hard to understand at first. Apple could have done a much better job at integrating these all together into one seamless experience for the user (something that, normally, Apple is very, very good at doing).

Now I once again have some free space on my iPhone to store things. Why wasn't the iPhone 4 released in a 64GB size? It's enough to make me miss the iPod Classic, which had an amazingly huge size. It's a shame Apple hasn't done anything to continue that product line, as the iPod Classic now is used mostly for plugging into stereo systems and car radios, because it's such a simple device that it's easy to control "hands free" with buttons, unlike Apple's newer touchscreen devices that are difficult to control from a remote control or worse yet, try to touch while driving. Since storage sizes have became just huge these days, I'd love to see a 1TB iPod Classic :)
link4 comments|post comment

Opening up old TV channels 5 and 6 for FM radio [Sep. 5th, 2010|05:00 pm]
JoSH Lehan
Ever since the TV stations switched over from analog to digital last year, the old analog TV channels 5 and 6 have been mostly vacant. This brings up an exciting new possibility, that excites me, and many others as well.

TV channels 5 and 6 have the unique advantage of being right next door to the existing FM channels. This would open up 12 MHz of new spectrum. Imagine having a radio that could tune as low as 76.1 or so, instead of stopping at the current limit of roughly 87.9.

The FM dial has been maxed out for decades: there's no room for anybody to open up a new station, without buying somebody else out. Since corporate interests now control almost all radio stations, there's almost no independent stations left, nor the ability for anybody to start one up. Nevertheless, people have tried, using the loophole of the old analog TV channel 6, which can be heard at 87.7 FM on many radios (with enough slop in the settings that they're allowed to go slightly beyond the official boundary of 87.9). An example of this is Pulse 87.7, which existed for a time in New York City. With the switchover to digital, this is no longer possible.

There are relatively few digital TV channels broadcasting on where analog TV channels 5 and 6 were. For a variety of reasons, ATSC digital TV just doesn't work very well on VHF. There is existing research on what TV channels would stand in the way of expanding FM radio. Most of them are translators, which aren't as necessary these days, and could be easily moved.

I would love to see TV channels 5 and 6 opened up for FM radio broadcasting. To avoid the same corporate takeover that happened to the existing FM radio dial, strict ownership limits would be enforced. The old rules, as existed before 1996, would be a good model for this. Essentially, it limits each entity (or entities under common ownership) to a maximum of 1 or 2 radio stations per market.

The advantages of doing this are many:

1) Adjacent to the existing FM radio band. No awkward gaps. Analog radios would only need a simple modification to receive these new frequencies.

2) Japan already uses these frequencies for FM broadcast. As many radios are made in Japan, many high-end radios already ship from the factory with the ability to receive on these frequencies. Usually, an obscure switch, flipped from "US" to "International", is all that it takes.

3) Compatible with existing FM analog service. Digital technology would merely be optional, and not necessary. This should keep the cost cheap, for both stations and listeners, and avoid repeating the existing problems of "HD Radio".

4) With pre-1996 rules brought back for these new frequencies, a great diversity of local radio stations would be allowed to develop.

5) Would not displace many existing television stations. There are very few digital TV channels transmitting on these frequencies, as ATSC digital TV does not work very well over VHF.

6) Little bureaucratic change would be necessary, as these frequencies are already "zoned" for mass media broadcasting, in the form of television. A simple rules change would be all that is necessary, to allow radio stations to apply for these frequencies.

7) Relief to an overcrowded FM band, and AM as well, could be possible. To avoid the confusion of a mass landrush if these new frequencies were suddenly opened, applications would be sorted by priority. Highest priority would be given to existing FM stations, that would agree to vacate their existing frequency after a while (perhaps once a majority of radios in service are able to receive these new frequencies), in exchange for this priority. The next highest priority would be given to existing AM stations, giving many AM stations the opportunity to migrate to FM.

8) Of all these new frequencies, there is one in particular that would be desired by everybody. The frequency of 87.7 has one huge advantage: it is already possible to receive on most existing radios. It has been suggested that the frequency of 87.7 be assigned to nobody, and that it remain vacant. It would be the "designated pirate frequency", usable by all, as long as they didn't interfere with any other channels. It would be good to have for community events, neighborhood gatherings, and so forth. It would also prevent new radio stations from immediately getting into catfights over 87.7, which would be the one frequency everybody would put first on their application forms.

I was very happy to read that one FCC commissioner has finally came on board with this idea! Hopefully the wheels of bureaucracy will begin to gain traction.
link4 comments|post comment

PAPA [Aug. 16th, 2010|10:52 pm]
JoSH Lehan
Here's a rare LiveJournal entry, because Facebook now has a size limitation for updates (not as severe as Twitter, but still pretty severe).

So here's where I was for most of last week: http://www.papa.org/papa13/live/

Entered in B division. Despite my best efforts, finished around the middle of the pack, nowhere near the qualifying cutoff mark (needed 16th or better to qualify). My B entries are no longer listed because on a whim, I decided to enter into A division, when it became obvious I wouldn't have a chance in B this year. Since all pressure was off, having accepted my loss, I actually did better in A than I thought I'd do! I also ended up in the middle of the pack in A division. I was feeling frustrated with myself, when somebody told me I should make a throwaway entry into A division just for fun. Great idea. I will keep that in mind for future years.

Also entered into Classics, both days, because Classics are what I do best at. Had some good games, but the entries were still losses because the good games were balanced out by bad games.

I need to learn to play more consistently. I can put together a good game now and then, but can't have a good game every time.
linkpost comment

Mostly on Facebook and Twitter now [Jun. 13th, 2010|09:04 am]
JoSH Lehan
I've been neglecting this LiveJournal blog, because I'm mostly on Facebook and Twitter now. I've been using Facebook for the little ephemeral things in life. This LiveJournal is for longer-term postings, such as when I learn some useful tip and would want to refer back to it again in the future.




linkpost comment

Set up Time Machine on Mac [Dec. 13th, 2009|02:42 pm]
JoSH Lehan
[mood |contentcontent]
[music |Random background TV]

I set up Time Machine on my Mac.

This is something I've wanted to do for a while. I wanted to make a backup of my data, and also, I wanted to be able to have a chance to go back when upgrading from Leopard (10.5) to Snow Leopard (10.6). If you don't have Time Machine, then upgrading to Snow Leopard is a one-way street. There's been talk of some problems with Snow Leopard, so I want to be careful just in case.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need an Apple "Time Capsule" external hard drive, to use Time Machine. Any external hard drive will do!

I bought a Seagate 1TB hard drive, and a generic USB enclosure for it. (The enclosure also supports eSATA, for faster speed, but unfortunately, my Mac doesn't.)

I'm trying something new: spending a little more money and getting an "enterprise" hard drive. There's no difference in hardware manufacture between desktop and enterprise hard drives, except that enterprise drives represent a cull of the drives that performed the very best in testing. They are said to be more reliable, and they do carry a longer warranty. I believe enterprise hard drives have a different firmware version as well. I was concerned that it would be noisier, but it seems fine so far.

The brand-new drive began completely blank (all zeroes). Time Machine is known for being painlessly simple, and popping up automatically, but you need to do a few things first, if you're using a brand-new external drive. To get Time Machine to see it, there are 4 things you must do:

1) Open Disk Utility (a popup box will appear when you first connect the drive, doing this automatically).

2) Select your new external drive, at left. Select "Partition", at top. Choose "1 Partition" from the Volume Scheme pulldown menu.

3) Choose "Options". Choose the "GUID Partition Table" scheme, but if you have an older non-Intel Mac, instead choose "Apple Partition Map". Hit OK.

Avoid "Master Boot Record", this is only for PC use. Unfortunately, many hard drives default to "Master Boot Record", and will need to be changed before they can be used with Time Machine, or there might be problems down the road.

4) In the main window, give your new partition a name, and make sure the type is set to "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)". Hit Apply.

Now, the Time Machine window should pop up! All you need to do is choose "Yes" when it asks you if you want to use this disk for Time Machine, and you're good to go.

Backups will automatically be scheduled to take place in the future. If you're impatient to get started, in the upper right corner of the screen, there will be a new icon, that looks like a clock with a circle around it. Pull down the window and select "Start Backup Now" or something like that. I did that, and it's happily chugging away now. I'll let it run overnight, in order to finish, as when the very first backup takes place, it has to make a copy of everything on your computer, and that takes a long time, especially over USB.

Of course, the true test of any backup system, is: Can it restore? I'll have to remember to test that later....
link6 comments|post comment

Predicting Maine vote results [Nov. 2nd, 2009|11:32 pm]
JoSH Lehan
[music |A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request]

I'm thinking about the Maine vote. Unfortunately, I predict a narrow loss. A recent poll result was 46-48-6. We will lose, by an extremely narrow margin, something around 51% or 52%, less than Prop 8, but still not enough to cross the magic 50% threshhold.

As you remember, the final Prop 8 poll was 43-47-10. The poll numbers looked good but 100% (yes, one hundred percent) of the "undecided" voters were really Yes On 8 voters who were too polite to admit it. That gave a final vote result of 53-47, we lost. Unfortunately, it looks like Maine is shaping up for a similar result, most likely 52-48, going by that recent poll.

Or, perhaps I could be pleasantly surprised? A win would be something to be overjoyed about.

Being gay, and voting, is like being a Cubs fan. Year after year after year after year....
link2 comments|post comment

Fixed leaking toilet [Nov. 1st, 2009|10:50 pm]
JoSH Lehan
[music |Silent, listening for drips]

Finally, I fixed the leaking toilet in the main bathroom upstairs! Finally, I can sleep again, without being kept awake every 5-10 minutes by the sound of the toilet refilling itself, and the steady gurgle of the leak in the tank.

The problem was, the flapper was old and worn away. It was no longer making a complete seal. So, I searched around on Google until I found the make and model of the toilet (Kohler K3386DA) and the appropriate replacement flapper part (Korky 2011BP).

Replacing the flapper was easy, but the problem was complicated by a very old shutoff valve. The valve hasn't been used in years, and most likely is damaged. When I had to shut off the water to a leaky sink a few months ago, in the same area of the house, the valve actually started to drip! That was scary, because the only way to shut off that drip was to shut off the entire water supply to the house, something I didn't want to do, and don't really know how to do. I hope I never have to do it here: who knows how long it's been since that valve was turned? What if it, too, is also frozen?

I went gingerly on the valve, and was able to steadily make a few slight turns until I felt resistance, then tried flushing the toilet. Crap, it still kept filling up. I kept going. Unfortunately, I reached the point where the valve would no longer easily move by hand pressure, so I stopped there. Crap! It still fills up with water!

Eric to the rescue: he had an ingenious solution, that worked. He used a clothes hanger, and a heavy book, to hold the floater lever artificially high. The lever kept the tank from filling up. So, I could remove the flapper entirely, and still have a dry tank, even though I couldn't shut off the valve. I took the opportunity to rub, with a towel, the area all around the hole that the flapper covers up. There were signs of gunk and corrosion there. Hopefully, I smoothed them out a bit, so the flapper will have more of a chance of getting a correct seal.

Replaced the flapper, and it seemed to fit nicely. The only frustrating part was getting the chain length correct, on the chain going to the handle: too long, and it wouldn't lift the flapper high enough to get a powerful flush, too short, and it wouldn't correctly release all tension so that the flapper could reseal itself afterwards. I even thought the flapper had failed, because I had part of the chain stick underneath the flapper! But, I sorted that out, and after much trial and error, I think I have it at a good enough length.

The leak has stopped. The tank now holds water again, and doesn't leak it through the flapper anymore. Now, I can sleep much better at night. The shutoff valve is still a worry, though.

I can't turn the valve anymore, because it is frozen. I will monitor it for drips. I hope I haven't damaged the valve. At any rate, I will let the landlord know about this. I'd love to own my own house someday. Then, I'd pay for a real plumber to come out and do the job right! A little preventative maintenance would go a long way here. I learned something to test the next time I'm walking through a realtor's Open House: try the shutoff valves on the toilets! Are they frozen? That would be a sign of neglect, and would alert me to adjust my asking price accordingly.
link6 comments|post comment

[ viewing | most recent entries ]
[ go | earlier ]