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MyTake - Buying a Cable Box Now Possible


Buying a Cable Box Now Possible 
Sunday, January 5, 2014, 2:05 PM - Computing Technology, Hardware
Posted by Administrator
Samsung just started selling its Smart Media Player, a set top box (STB) that will accept a CableCard from the cable company for $150. Previously these have only been available for purchase for connections to computers, such as a HDHomeRun, not directly to TVs. Cable companies typically charge a small rental fee of $2-5 per month per CableCard. As you can see this can pay for itself in 1-2 years compared to a $10/month (or more) HD STB rental from the cable company. You won't get all the features of the cable box like the guide or on-demand but it functions like a normal TV, pick a channel, the video shows up on the TV. For an infrequently used TV set, this could save a bundle while still getting HD quality.

The Samsung GX-SM530CF Cable Box and Streaming Media Player is available on Amazon and at time of writing is $138.
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Firewall 1 - Chromecast 0 
Wednesday, August 14, 2013, 9:38 PM - Hardware, Software, Security
Posted by Administrator
I unboxed my new Chromecast device yesterday. Setup was fairly straightforward, I entered my Wifi information, only to continually get an error that it "could not connect to the internet." I thought I might have has a Wifi issue, not connecting for some reason, maybe out of range or a DHCP issue. I was finally able to track it down. It turns out that it didn't like my DNS firewall. On my network I have blocked use of all DNS servers besides mine to handle problems like DNS Changer. I saw this traffic:

19:19:10.284578 IP 10.0.3.247.59034 > google-public-dns-a.google.com.domain: 57629+ A? pool.ntp.org. (30)
19:19:10.300858 IP 10.0.3.247.55306 > google-public-dns-a.google.com.domain: 6977+ A? clients3.google.com. (37)
19:19:11.300764 IP 10.0.3.247.48751 > google-public-dns-b.google.com.domain: 6825+ A? clients3.google.com. (37)


Chromecast is hard coded to use Google's Public DNS service and does not use the DNS servers provided by DHCP. Problem solved, but I had to punch a hole in my firewall specifically for Google DNS which is a little annoying.

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Customer Service is Dead at UPS 
Sunday, March 6, 2011, 3:51 PM - General
Posted by Administrator
What follows is a copy of my recent correspondence with UPS "Customer Service." Despite offering to "rectify this situation" and asking me to contact them for "additional assistance," I do so and get absolutely NO RESPONSE. I now plan on boycotting UPS and choosing ANY other delivery service, even at an extra expense to myself. I encourage others to do the same.

The service offered for an additional cost does not even address my problem. I cannot believe they want me to spend more money on a service when they can't even complete a basic level of service! I request they explain how they will "rectify this situation" in the future, as they said they would, with no answer.

Since the email exchange, there has been no improvement in service as I requested. I have received many more packages and not been notified. Even days when I am at home all day, there is no knock on the door, not even an attempt at a real delivery.

----------------------------------------------------

These packages (tracking numbers included) were delivered during the past few days to my rental office. I did not receive an infonotice. You need to provide infonotices in the future when you deliver a package and no one is available at my residence. This has been a continuing problem both at this residence and my previous residence. How am I supposed to know when "surprises" arrive from others? If the problem is not corrected I will actively choose other carriers for my shipping needs and tell others to do the same.

----------------------------------------------------

Dear Neil,

Thank you for your e-mail. I have checked the status of your shipments in our tracking system. Our records indicate that your shipments were delivered on 12/15/10 at 9:47 AM to the following address:

<REDACTED>

Your shipments were signed for by the following individual:

LONG

For future use, UPS shippers can obtain immediate Proof of Delivery (POD) information--including the delivery address and an image of the delivery signature--by using our online Signature Tracking service at ups.com. For more information on how to use this free service, please visit the following web page:

https://www.ups.com/myups/info/sigtracking?loc=en_US


Your comments are very important to us. Feedback such as yours allows us to continually improve our services. I completely understand your frustration, and I appreciate your cooperation as we work to rectify this situation.

Please contact us if you need any additional assistance.

Steven S.
UPS Customer Service

----------------------------------------------------

Hi, I don't think you understand my point. I already have the packages. The problem is that I was not notified by UPS that they were delivered to my rental office. If I did not have the tracking numbers, as sometimes happens, I would have no way of knowing they were waiting for me.

And actually your system is showing me that one of the packages was delivered on 12/15 and the other two were delivered on 12/16. So I should have had at least two Infonotices. There were none for any of these packages. Please explain your plan to rectify this situation for future deliveries. Thank you.

Neil
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Verizon's 180 
Wednesday, October 27, 2010, 9:00 PM - Computing Technology
Posted by Administrator
I just ran across my notes from why I canceled my contract with Verizon in early 2007. I recently switched back, and it appears most of my gripes have been addressed. The list from 2007:

- Disabled Bluetooth features (namely file transfer and dial up profiles)
- Unable to install non-certified apps
- Contact backup program doesn't work
- No unlimited SMS plan
- Web costs a monthly fee AND minutes, no unlimited data plan available for phones
- Can't activate non-e911 compliant phone
- Weak coverage at work
- Voicemail does not count as IN network minutes

Since that time it appears that all but the last four issues have been addressed. I should note that my phone at the time was a Motorola v710 (a J2ME/BREW based phone, Verizon's first Bluetooth phone) and I now have a Motorola Droid X. It looks like Verizon STILL doesn't offer an unlimited web plan for "standard" phones, only smartphones. And as far as why calling a Verizon voicemail system, using the Verizon network, with a Verizon phone, still isn't considered "IN network," I have no idea.
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Free, Simple Finance Calculations 
Tuesday, August 17, 2010, 10:33 PM - Economics
Posted by Administrator
I've been using my own custom budgeting spreadsheet for a long time. Most of the budgeting software I've come across is just really overkill for my needs. I don't need to track every penny in and out, I just need to make sure in a general sense, my money coming in is more than my money going out. Most of my expenditures are extremely predictable, bills like rent, phone, cable, etc. don't change much from month to month. If I look at my expenses over a year this is even more true. Issues that aren't the same every month like car repairs and travel expenses are more consistent when looking at the picture for a whole year.

Therefore, I developed a simple budget spreadsheet, which is now available to you. It is based on a very simple concept, it follows the same trail that your money does over the course of a year. We start with income, typically in the form of wages. Then remove the pre-tax deductions that never see your bank account. From there we can reasonably calculate how much you are taxed and subtract that out along with any other post-tax deductions from your paycheck. That leaves your take home pay, where you itemize your expenses and watch your balance drop to zero.

In addition, I developed a simple retirement spreadsheet. This was because I was unable to find an online calculator that convinced me that it took the appropriate considerations for inflation, social security (or lack thereof), and pay raises. Or worse, it was unclear about inflation adjusted dollars vs. present day dollars, as you will see this can make a BIG difference when you are looking at decades. If you want to look at the details you can, I have full spreadsheets for each year, inflation adjusted or not. But if you want to keep it simple, just fill in the purple boxes and you will get a chart that shows your retirement saving/spending.

Please note, I am not a Certified Public Accountant. You should consult one for tax and retirement planning issues. These spreadsheets are only a generic guide to give you a long term outlook for retirement. There are probably some mistakes or things I haven't accounted for, or issues simply too complex to include. I appreciate any feedback on these issues and I will try to address them. I have run numbers against various other calculators and believe what my spreadsheets come up with are at least in the right ballpark.
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