Monthly Archives: October 2006

Multimedia PC

Now that I have a big screen TV and no cable or DirecTV, I discovered a need to connect a PC to my TV to watch shows I download now in HD. I had the grand idea to buy a video card with DVI out and use my mail server (starbuck) to playback video I download from the internet. So I got the video card last night and put in into Starbuck. I was very disappointed to find that there were no drivers from ATI that would work with the card and support Server 2003. So that shot down that idea. The whole reason I wanted to use starbuck was because its a more powerful machine, at almost 2GHz and 1.5GB of RAM. So as a last resort, I took my old backup server (janeway) and reloaded it with Windows XP Pro. I installed the video card and proceeded to setup the machine to be my playback computer. The bad thing is that its dog slow, this thing only has a 667MHz CPU and 512MB of PC100 SDRAM. So I finally got it all setup and drivers installed and connected it to my TV. I had to tweak the video settings and finally got it to where I could see the Desktop on the TV. I installed my codecs and began trying out the video playback. So far it all worked with only one hiccup, its on wireless, and a cheap wireless card at that. So I was copying over a 1GB+ file to playback and the wireless disconnected at 85% of my file copy and I lost it. I gave up around 11:30pm and went to bed. I plan to run cable into a wall jack behind my entertainment center so I can hard wire the connection, rather than rely on flakey wireless. Of what I was able to watch, I think this setup will work for now, but I definately need to get a better machine to use for video playback.

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Spam for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sometimes even a midnight snack

I HATE SPAM!!! Seriously, not only do I hate spam, but I also hate the product IHateSpam. For the past few months I’ve been having major difficulties with the spam filter at work. Its just one thing after another and support in our situation is not that great. Well a week ago or so, it stopped working all together, so I got permission to install a new spam filter that is an SMTP level filter. Its blocking a great deal of the junk we normally get, but the problem now is that messages are being delayed. IHateSpam seems to be having a problem where incoming SMTP connections are causing the smtpsvc to hang. I can see messages trickle in but mail is not flowing as it should, which is a major problem. I’m still waiting for an engineer to call me back and look at something. But I have been spending every day of my week from morning until evening, and sometimes into the night working on this spam filter. During the day I have to restart the service all day long, then in the evening it runs ok, but slow, and occasionally mail backs up in the queue. I am getting so sick of SPAM filters, I hope we can get this issue resolved soon so I can get back to other projects.

My amazing handyman abilities!

When we bought our house the existing dishwasher was tested and found to work. Upon moving in, we found out that the test that was run on the dishwasher was the last time it would run. So we were in need of a new dishwasher. Unfortunately, none of the nearby home improvement places had any reasonable prices for a new dishwasher. So Liz got on the computer and checked craigslist and freecycle. She found an ad on freecycle for a like new dishwasher and sent an e-mail asking about it. We ended up getting it and as soon as I got home last night I went to pick it up. I single handedly lifted the monstros beast into the back of the van and proceeded on my way home to install it.

I’d like to say that when I got home I unloaded it and immediately began to install it. I disconnected the old one and easily connected the new dishwasher and found no problems. I did it all by myself and with no external assistance. Thats what I’d like to say. The truth is that I had to call Ray (my handly master plummer father-in-law), on several (ok – many) issues I encountered. First, I didn’t see how the water line on the old dishwasher would connect to the new one. Then I didn’t see how the drain hose would work with the new one. Then I realized I had to hand wire the electrical leads to power the thing. Ray calmly opened my eyes to the simplistic answers to all my questions and with a good understanding of how it all works, I got to work. I was able to get the old one out with relatively no problems. Although my kitchen floor got quite a bath as there were several inches of water that was stuck inside the old dishwasher. Then the power cord got wraped around one of the legs and Liz had to help me get it off while I lifted the unit off the floor. Out to the front porch it went and is where it still sits. We’ll probably list it on freecycle or dispose of it through the county.

Ok now the fun part. I started to connect the new dishwasher to the electric, water and drain. First, I decided to attach the copper adapter needed to connect the water line to the new dishwasher. I was doing good until the last 1/2 turn of the adapter when I heard a loud “Snap”. Turns out I broke the electric valve that controlls the water intake to the dishwasher. I tried to be McGuyver and used duct tape to seal it back together, but this didn’t do much to hold back the flood waters that came out of the water line when I opened the valve under the sink. Liz and I ordered a new intake valve online lat night. Actually she found it online and found the best price for it while I was watching Heroes on TV.

So we have a dishwasher now that didn’t cost us anything, its in good shape, and the only cost so far is the price of the new intake valve that we have to get because I don’t know my own strength. Ok, because I was foolishly holding onto the wrong area of the valve while turning on the copper line adapter with my wrench. 🙂

This all reminds me of another story. This has to do with a GFCI electrical outlet. Our home inspection also said there was a faulty GFCI outlet in the garage that probably controlled both bathrooms. Which we found was correct (you’ll see why in a minute). I went to Lowes and bought a new GFCI outlet and attempted to install a new one. A word to the wise, make sure you check out the wiring pattern before you disconnect the old outlet. If you have ever done electrical, you know what I’m talking about. So I put the new one in and wire it up, which is a major pain by the way, since the wires are very high grade and solid copper. I got it all put back in the wall and turned the power to the outlet back on at the breaker box and went to test. I had power to the outlet itself, but both bathrooms were dead. I didn’t find out my bathroom outlets were dead until later that night when I went to plug something into my bathroom outlet. So just before bed I run back out in the garage and take it all apart again. I tried several wiring patterns and just could not get that new outlet to work for the bathrooms. I ended up having to put the old one back in, but not until I had wired and re-wired about 6 times. Once I put the old outlet back in, all the outlets worked just fine. The GFCI protection may not work, but at least I have power to the three outlets.

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ISP change

The time has come for me to try Verizon FIOS. The pre-installers were at my house today to bury the fiber optic cable for FIOS internet. Their base package is only slightly slower than what I get with Road Runner, but Road Runner is $10 a month more expensive and has slower upload speeds. So they will be installing the system at my house tomorrow between 8am and 11am. I get a free wireless router and it does support port forwarding and all the advanced features I need to keep my home network up and running. If I do decide to keep FIOS and ditch Road Runner, I will have some DNS zone changes to make but it should be a fairly easy switch. Eventually I’ll upgrade to their middle package wtih 15MB down and 2MB up. I’ll start off with 5MB down and 2MB up. Which is enough to get me started, but eventually I’ll need more bandwidth!

Its just the brakes

This past Monday I had to take our van to a brake shop to get new breaks installed. I was surprised to find the brake pads crumbling apart and in bad need of replacement. So I went in to Just Brakes and they had a $98 4-wheel break job package. When I got out to the van they also said there were problems with the calipers sticking on the front and something on the back two wheels that were causing the rear brakes to lock and not function correctly or at all. It also needed new rotors, but rather than spend over $700 to get it all done, we worked out something so they could fix the back brakes and replace all the brake pads and get the van back up and running. I didn’t get new rotors and the calipers in the front could still be sticking. Liz called me this morning while on her way to take Sarah to school and said the brakes were not working. She had to push the brake pedal all the way to the floor to get them to stop the van and even then it would barely stop. So she borrowed a friend’s van and took sarah to school. Later this afternoon she is going to take the van back to a just brakes location near our house and see if they can fix it for free, since its probably something they did at the other shop. Hopefully we can get them fixed at no cost today!

Free Food

There is a really tasty lunch shop across the street from my office at work in the International Mall called Earl of Sandwich. They make lots of fresh hot sandwiches. I have been in there a few times over the last few months and I’ve had a few problems. About 5 of the 6 times I’d been in this place, I would order one thing and get something completely different from what I asked for. Now I’m used to the fact that pretty much anything I get involved in, there are going to be strange unexpected problems, same goes for lunch. But I eventually sent a complaint to the corporate office for this place. They were very nice and sent me two free sandwich vouchers to make it up to me. Fortunately both times I used my vouchers they got my order correct!

Miata Top

Unfortunately I have a rip in the convertible top of my Miata. I tried to patch it with some generic vinyl and sealant, but its not going to do the job. I need to go to an automative store and try to get something stronger that will hold out for about a year. New tops for Miata’s are around $600 which is more than I have available to spend right now. And my poor little go-cart is a bit dirty too, she really needs a bath, which is something I plan on doing soon; I just need more time!

Details

Our old house sold rather quickly, it was listed, sold and closed within 30 days. Our buyer was a little wacky and we had to jump through all kinds of hoops to make him happy. The closing date snuck up on us big time and we had only a few days to make moving arrangements. Liz and I packed up as much as we could and we had some friends that were nice enough to come over and help us. We had some help loading large items onto a moving truck which we were fortunately able to get for free from our real estate agent’s company. It was a 15′ truck and took 2 full loads to get all of our things to the garage of the new house. Liz and I loaded the first truck load along with some help from friends with the large items on Saturday morning. We then took the load to the new garage and unloaded it with just Liz and myself. It took us about 1 hour or so to unload the first trip. Then we took the truck back to our house and started to load more. It was getting late and Liz’s dad had come down to help from Ocala, so we took a dinner break and ended up with Liz’s dad and myself stopping by Dairy Queen on the way back. We got all the rest of the stuff from our old house loaded onto the truck in a few hours. Leaving only some trash to put out for collection and some small items like mirrors and things we could get with the van. It was almost 10pm by this time so we decided to leave it at that for the night and I drove the full truck back to a baseball field parking lot next to some friend’s house whom we were staying with. The next afternoon, Liz went somewhere with the kids and I took the truck to the new house and unloaded it by myself. It only took me a little over an hour and a half to get the extremely packed truck unloaded. What can I say, I’m nothing if not efficient. Ha ha. That evening I took the truck back to the real estate agent’s office and got my precious Miata back. I enjoyed a nice pleasant ride back to where we were staying.

First our home sale was supposed to happen on a Friday and the closing on our new house on a Monday. However, there was some kind of delay last minute and we could not close on either until Wednesday. So Wednesday finally came, I took some vacation days off work for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday but also had Monday off for Columbus day. So I had 6 days to move and get settled in. We met at the title company at 3pm on Wednesday to close on both houses. The buyer of our house could not be there so he came earlier and signed paperwork. Which we were very happy about so we didn’t have to deal with him in person since he gave us such a time dealing through his real estate agent. Not to mention his agent had a horrible accent and was very hard to understand. They got to us in a short amount of time and we signed all the sale papers for our old house. We finished only after about 15 minutes or so, and then decided to move on and finish the signing of the papers on our new house. This way, when the seller got there all he had to do was sign a few papers and we’d be all set.

Bad thing was that the amount we got back at closing was not as much as we had thought due to higher taxes and expenses in closing. So we got back just short of the amount we wanted. We had planned to pay off two big debts but didn’t receive enough to pay off just one of them. We will be getting an escrow refund from our first mortgage which will help and we don’t have a mortgage payment until Dec 1st, so I’m hoping the extra bill I hadn’t counted on will not be too high of a payment. We should be able to pay a little on the second debt which will hopefully make it more managable. We still have some things we need to buy though, like a dishwasher, since it died just after we got the keys. I’d like to get a new refridgerator, but that will have to wait. We did get a new TV (woo hoo), couch set, and some other things, but the budget is going to be interesting now. We are going to have to take Sarah out of private school and send her to a very highly rated public school nearby. We just can’t afford her tuition anymore with the higher living expenses. This has been hard for Liz and I’m not happy about it either, but unless I get a major career boost (and I already do good) or Liz gets a good job, we just can’t afford to send our kids to private school. Its bad enough just paying tuition for one, I can’t immaging how we could send all our kids to private school. Sarah will likely start public school in early November.

Activating utilities at the new house was a little strange, we are just outside the city limits of Temple Terrace, but still are on their water/sewer system. Tampa Electric still services us which is good, but water and trash pickup were tricky. The county told me they didn’t service my address, the city said they didn’t service the address, Temple Terrace told us they did. So it was a bit confusing getting it all setup. But on the day we moved in we had power, water/sewer and trash pickup is covered in our property taxes. I missed trash pickup this morning, I guess they come way earlier than I am used to, so I’ll have to remember to put it out the night before the pickup day. I ordered Verizon FIOS for internet access to try it out and see how it works for me. Its cheaper than Road Runner and has faster upload speeds which is more important to me than a few MB faster download speeds. I am downloading any TV shows I want to watch now so we didn’t get cable again and I don’t want to pay for Satellite, which stinks in Florida anyway with all the rain in the summer. I connected my PC via DVI to the new TV – a Hitachi 57″ HDTV. I watched some things on it in HD and its amazing. I just need to get a good surround sound system and I’ll be set. But thats one more thing I can’t afford right now. I might be able to get a PCI video card with a DVI port on it, and just use my e-mail server as my multimedia machine. I’d also need to get a wireless keyboard and mouse, but thats not too expensive. I have yet to decide what I want to do about that yet.

We love our new house, its not brand new and it has some maintenance things that will need to be done, but its been cared for and is in good shape overall. Its in a very quiet neighborhood, peaceful and pleasant. Liz has already been rollerblading a few times and I took the kids in the back yard last night to assemble their swing set and it was so quiet and there was a nice cool breeze blowing with no one else around. I have some installation inadequicies so it took a little longer than I had wanted to get the swing set assembled 🙂 We still have lots of stuff in the new garage so only my Miata can fit in there at night right now. I would like to have both vehicles in the garage by next weekend. Its not that much left to move, but its a matter of time and energy to go through it all. We made good progress in the few days we have been there, the kitchen and living room look great, but the other rooms are a little bare right now.

So I’m back at work today after a long break and am right back into the mix of things again. I think I am becomming a supporter of capitol punnishment for spammers. :-)]]>

Move complete

1. We successfully closed on the sale of our old house
2. We closed on the purchase of our new house
3. We have a good start on the unpacking of our stuff
4. I have a tear in the top of my Miata (I patched it)
5. We love our new house!

I’ll post more details later when I have time.]]>