Comcast Mess

Comcast sent us a letter saying our TVs will stop working unless we have a Comcast box or get a free DTA (Digital Transport Adapter.) They are going all digital and all customers will need digital controls that allow for things like on-demand movies and even more and more channels.

We don’t want either, but our basic TV package would quit working unless we at least order the DTA. The first three are free, so I ordered one for each TV.

Three giant boxes came in the mail and one is pictured below. I think six Apple TV packages would have fit in one Comcast DTA package. Inside the box are:

Comcast DTA Shipping Package

  1. a little hockey puck, which is the DTA
  2. a small AC/DC power supply (oh good, another plug)
  3. a coax cable (oh good, more cables)
  4. an optional IR remote control wire in the event the remote cannot see the hockey puck
  5. a remote control for the hockey puck (oh good, another remote control)
  6. two AA batteries for remote (hey, batteries included)
  7. some 2-sided stickers for sticking the hockey puck on the side of something
  8. a giant, two-sided “simple” set up poster nightmare
  9. a smaller, many-worded instruction booklet
  10. a remote control instruction booklet with tons of secret codes that *might* let you turn your TV on/off and sound up/down with the new remote control.

And that’s just one set. Multiply the photo times three.

It took me hours to get all of this junk set up and activated. Our Sony TV went smoothly, but  the Philips with VCR was a mess because of cable complexities. And after much trial and error and Google research, the best we have with the kitchen Magnivox is the mute button on the remote will turn the power on/off and the volume down button will make the volume go up. If we want the volume to go down, we have to use the TV’s native remote. Ugh….

Apple TV with Remote

Apple TV much simpler.

Our TVs and VCR are all now “stupid” because all tuning and programming has been taken away from them and moved to the Comcast DTAs. I believe these “free” hockey pucks are Comcast’s attempt to grab the digital brains of our TVs before Apple comes in and takes over. I really hope Apple is successful at simplifying both the technology and pricing of TV and drives Comcast out of business. I’ll pay extra just to avoid all of this mess!

PS – We use our Apple TV (hockey puck) all the time. It was so simple to set up and uses our AT&T internet connection, so I hope some day we can just turn off Comcast.


MacBook Pro 15″

Migrated from MacBook 13″:
Hardware Overview:
Model Name: MacBook Pro
Model Identifier: MacBookPro8,2
Processor Name: Intel Core i7
Processor Speed: 2 GHz
Number of Processors: 1
Total Number of Cores: 4
L2 Cache (per Core): 256 KB
L3 Cache: 6 MB
Memory: 8 GB
Boot ROM Version: MBP81.0047.B0E
SMC Version (system): 1.69f1
Serial Number (system): C02FR8R6DF8V
Hardware UUID: 7EB34221-EF92-5884-9989-1B2F97832A4B
Sudden Motion Sensor:
State: Enabled

Continue reading

Yahoo Notepad to Google Docs to iPod Touch

Following Ted’s lead (although after the price went from 99 cents to $3.99) I purchased the NoteMaster app for my iPod Touch. Most of my quick notes are stored under a Google Doc folder (label) called “notepad” where they were created when I converted my Yahoo Notepad to Google Docs.

169 “notepad” documents are now on my iPod Touch in what was a much quicker and smoother process than the Yahoo Notepad to Google Doc steps.

golden-in-notepad.jpgI was even surprised to see a thumbnail of a Golden Retriever in one of my notes, which I had pasted in as a reminder about an image-based security step in one of my accounts.

Only one note did not transfer down, the one containing all of my VW Passat specs. It is a relatively small amount of simple text, so I’m not sure why it didn’t make it down.

Thanks for the research and review Ted!

Desktop Bocci

One of my favorite photos from Anna Maria 2010 is now among our iMac’s desktop rotation. (Desktop changes every hour randomly.)

I often remote control our iMacs from my laptop when maintaining them. This snapshot is from my MacBook while controlling the iMac 20. That’s why you see little icons floating around Grant and Ted. You can just see my own desktop photo peeking through on the left. One of the sunset shots.


Mac5 on Touch and BlackBerry

In 2006 I wrote about getting my first BlackBerry that enabled internet viewing. My current BlackBerry 8830 is brighter and crisper, but internet browsing is put to shame by the “free” iPod Touch we got with Kathy’s new MacBook Pro. The ability to scroll, pinch-zoom in/out, and navigate is amazing. (An iPod Touch is basically an iPhone without a camera or phone capability.)

Hello astronaut Carol!

iMac Goes Terabyte

The iMac Aluminum 20″ started misbehaving. Claire and Kelly reported, “it has been on a gray Apple screen for 5 hours trying to start up.”

I found the computer did not want to boot up properly and when it would, it would end up going into a sluggish state after a short period of time. I was worried it would be another logic board problem which would cost upwards of $500 to replace. (I’m now out of the 1 year warranty.)

imac20-mcc-1.jpg imac20-guts.jpg imac20-mcc-2.jpg

After several experiments of testing the drive, fixing errors, reinstalling the software, etc. I decided I was getting nowhere fast, and would need to make an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar.

Before that, though, I wondered if I could create a boot drive with one of the external Seagate drives. I didn’t think you could boot off a USB drive, but I couldn’t find anything that said yes or no on the web, so I tried. I consolidated the contents of the two Seagates onto one, and went to install OS X on the empty drive. The install software said I needed to format the drive as “GUID” to make it bootable. It told me to do that with Disk Utility, so soon I was off installing OS X.

After the install, I was prompted if I wanted to copy existing software, settings, and documents from another Mac or another disk. Wondering if I could pull the contents off the internal drive, I prompted it to look there. After a couple of hours, all of the data, software, and settings on the internal drive were on the external drive, and we were up and running as if nothing had happened. (Still lost the wiki, though.) USB is a bit slower, but for the most part, the iMac acted normal.

I decided I had a failing internal hard drive since errors were found that could not be repaired and the drive would no longer mount. Guided by a video of how to upgrade an iMac Aluminum hard drive, I was off to Best Buy to pick up a Seagate Terabyte (1,000 Gigabytes) drive on sale for $112. Twice the size of the failed drive. I also picked up two shower suction cups and a torx screwdriver set (always wanted one.)

Claire and I went into surgery following the video. The suction cups worked great for pulling off the cover screen that is held in place with magnetic strips. (The suction cups in the video are overkill.) Only one step was missed by the video– a sensor cable on the left side that is tucked behind the fan. It was easy enough to disconnect. The video really made it all so easy to do. We had the brain transplant complete within an hour, and then it took several hours to reverse the install / copy process from the external drive.

Claire was a great helper. She was partially motivated by her mechanical engineering interests, but the truth is she was really motivated to get back to playing the new game she and Kelly bought, Sims 3. The two of them have missed not having the iMac for a week. They even took up sewing like two Mac-less pilgrim children.

Lost wiki. Lost videos.

Our 1.5 year old iMac 20 is semi-broken and will have to go back for a second visit to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store… this time not under warranty. ($) I think the hard disk has some problems. I had to reinstall the operating system to get it to come back at all, but it is not happy.

All of our photos, music, and documents are backed up, but the one thing I never got around to backing up was the Fiveforks Wiki that held copies of the Histories and FOPAB scans as well as some nice commentary and original text created by Ted and I. It is that unique text that I’m afraid is gone. (We have the FOPABs and original Histories.)


In order to run the WikiMedia software I needed newer technology (PHP5) than what is running on the Mac5 server (PHP4). While I have the databases backed up daily on Mac5, I never did get around to installing the backup routines on the iMac at the house.

This combined with the failure of a Lacie external hard drive (1 year old) about the same time also meant the loss of a lot of the crazy videos the girls have made. The best were burned to DVD, posted on YouTube or Facebook, so we have those, but I know they were disheartened to lose some of their crazy unpublished stuff.

I also lost a large Western Digital external hard drive last year almost exactly after one year. Amazing these two external drives failed within weeks of their 1 year warranty expiration. My two external Seagates any two external Maxtors (at work) have held up well.

All of this makes me question 1) using desktop Macs like servers… running almost 24 hours x 7 days per week and 2) depending on external hard drives to back up the desktops. Still, if I had backed up the Wiki and the videos, I would feel better.

Mac5 may move to a hosted server (non Mac) in the not too distant future.

Continue reading

25 Years of Mac

Wired magazine has a short article about the history of Macintosh. The graphic below is fun to look at. Nicole and Danny will remember some of the computers and printers on the left. Kelly and Claire are more familiar with the right. Although, Claire still plays with an old 1994 PowerBook 520c that amazingly works and can even surf the internet with a light version of Opera.

mac5 runs on a Blue 1999 G4 PowerMac which made this montage.