nullstream weblog - June 2008

Well There's Your Problem...


June 19, 2008 09:15 PM PST

...right there:

I went outside and followed my Ethernet cable from my modem to the living room, where the internets stopped working a couple days ago. My WiFi, 360, XBMC and TiVo had all been interrupted by what I discovered last night was a bad link between my network routers.

As you can see in the picture - it appears the cable was chewed on? It's been installed for years, and actually was tucked under the ledge you see.

So how should I go about repairing it? Short term I'll just bridge the wireless network. 100Mbit is really nice though. Re-wiring will be a big pain and unsightly. I could solder the connections and heat-shrink tube it, but I can't find the materials for htat. Have you seen some crimping or splicing hardware I can use here? It doesn't have to be waterproof really - duct tape should solve that.

Update: Found some telephone line splicers. They work for solid copper lines, from 26 to 22 AWG, so perfect for the 24 AWG Cat5 cable. These cost about $4 at the hardware store, which was about the cheapest and quickest solution I could find. You basically put in two wires and then squeeze with pliers and a metal contact with two slots is crushed down on the wires. I wrapped everything in duct tape, and at least this solution works better than bridged WiFi. We'll see how well it does with COD4. Pictures after the break...

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No More Netflix Profiles


June 19, 2008 09:37 AM PST

Netflix jumps on the popular feature removal bandwagon. Starting Sept 1 they are eliminating profiles. Profiles allow you to setup multiple Netflix queues under one account. For example my wife has her own queue with one DVD out at a time. This way she can manage her own list of sappy chick flicks while I fill my own queue with, uh, more important stuff. So much for a good thing. Thanks Netflix.

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No More Google Browser Sync


June 18, 2008 11:31 PM PST

Lifehacker reports that Google Browser Sync has been discontinued and will not be updated to support firefox 3. That is so lame. It is my favorite Firefox plug in, and has completely changed how I use a browser. I have it installed on all my computers for syncing bookmarks and open tabs. Thanks Google.

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New iPhone?


June 9, 2008 09:39 AM PST

Well today is potentially the day the new iPhone gets announced - or not. Many, many people are making their predictions. Instead of that I'll give a short, prioritized wish list. This is not a comprehensive list of all the things I think are deficient about the device, but it does reflect my current, top priorities.

1. 3G
2. Tethering
3. Bluetooth stereo headphone profile.

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Compact Fluorescent Bulbs


June 9, 2008 01:30 AM PST

A couple of years ago I replaced a large proportion of the light bulbs in my house with CF bulbs. Almost immediately I noticed the savings on my power bill. I justified the higher cost and almost ridiculous disposal issues by the long term savings I was going to get. After all these things are supposed to last a crazy long time (up to 10 years - it says so right on the package). I eventually replaced nearly all the bulbs in my house.

Well as of now I'm officially changing my mind on that decision. The reason? These things are dying right and left. It seems that for 3 - 4 times the money I'm getting bulbs that are lasting 1/3 the time. In fact the vanity mirror and flood types are only lasting 10 - 14 months on average for me. That is far less than the incandescents they replaced. So much for long life. Now I've got a pile of crazy mercury filled dead bulbs that I'm probably going to have to pay to dispose of. So much for saving the environment.

I think this is another case where the consumer is being sold snake oil.

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Roku's Neflix Player

Home Theater

June 6, 2008 05:35 PM PST

Shortly after I got the 360 streamer working my Roku box showed up. This is a pretty amazing piece of hardware. It is small and light and fan-less. There is no on-off switch! I went to the web site and they basically said you can just leave it on all the time, it draws very little power. If you want to turn it off you have to un-plug it. It runs a custom version of Linux on a strong arm based embedded processor. It has all the AV connection options you could think of, Svideo, composite, component, HDMI, stereo out and optical out. It has both Ethernet and Wifi-G connectivity.


The setup was easy. I first configured it for my wifi network, then it ask for my Netflix credentials. After that it generated an activation code that I had to go online to Netflix's site and enter. The whole process took less than 10 minutes.

The user interface is about as simple as it gets. When you boot it up, it connects to your 'instant' queue. From there you can select a show, read about it and play it. It supports fast forward and rewind via a thumbnail preview. Once you find the spot you want it can take 30 seconds or so to cache up the data at that location before it plays. You can only select movies in your instant queue, you cannot browse for new movies to watch - this must be done from the PC. Originally I thought that this was a pretty major limitation, but now I think it is a pretty cool feature. I'm treating it like parental controls. If my kids use the box they'll only be able to watch the shows that I 'made available', instead of having instant access to all the R rated content I don't want them to see.


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