Remote Control Surge Protector

When I bought my TV, it was “HD ready,” meaning it wasn’t. It couldn’t receive over-the-air HD signals without some other device unscrambling the signal first. So I wound up buying a HD receiver that would do that. One thing I noticed was the HD receiver stays pretty warm all the time, so even when it is off (really on standby) it is using a lot of power. If you unplug it, it has to boot up which takes maybe a minute or so. So it is always booted up and ready.

On a bulletin board I visit now, we were talking about energy efficiency and someone mentioned that one of the big energy killers is devices that are turned off but still use up a lot of electricity. These are sometimes called “vampires”. This guy said he had a TV that used a lot even when it was off, which he was able to measure using a Kill A Watt energy monitor. He has an off-grid cabin that uses solar power, so he has to avoid vampires like that and instead chose to use a regular TV in the cabin.

Anyway, what I told him was needed is a remote controlled surge protector. That way you could plug in the DVD player, TV, receiver, HD box, etc. and then turn off the surge protector so they couldn’t use any energy while they were off (essentially unplugged now). You could do this by hand, but it would be easier to do it by remote since surge protectors are usually buried under a lot of wire. Another guy said they already make them, so I went looking on Amazon and sure enough, I found one made by Belkin.

It is pretty neat. It has 2 plugs for continuous power, which are needed for things like a DVR that might record a show while I’m not there. Then it has 6 plugs that can be cut off with a remote. I think it uses radio frequencies and therefore doesn’t need a direct line of sight from the remote to the device, but if not, I will be able to program that into my universal remote. It also has settings so that you could have one surge protector for the home entertainment group and another for the computer set up independently.

I bought one. I will set up my DVR and TV with continuous power since I use those the most. But when I watch a DVD or want to tune in an HD program (not that often, partly because I don’t even get decent reception of most of the stations), I will turn on the other stuff. While I was at it, I also bought a Kill A Watt device so I can measure how much energy I am saving. Hopefully this will save energy. Once I measure a few things with the Kill a Watt, I won’t need it very often, so anyone is welcome to borrow it.

Six Flags

I knew it had been a while since I had been to Six Flags and I wanted to get back there soon. Lately, their finances have been shaky and it wasn’t completely certain they would even be able to stay open this year. Jeb mentioned possibly planning a trip and after the cold rainy weather of last weekend, we decided to try this weekend (next weekend is the last one of the year). I asked Grant, but he couldn’t go.

We started the day by going to church at Holy Cross, which I thought would be good because it would make us start early (mass ending at 10), but after stopping at Mom’s to change out of church clothes and picking up coffee and lunch, then driving down to the park we got there a little after 11:30 (park opens at 10:30). Then I lost the tickets I had purchased and printed out at home the night before. We walked to the gate (parking was self-serve and there was only one tram which doesn’t seem to run that often) and a lady at customer service was able to re-print our tickets by using my credit card. The deal with buying at home was that you get kid’s price of $30 instead of paying $45. But if you paid $50 you would get a season pass for next year plus get in free the rest of this year.

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Antivirus Software

This weekend my one-year license for Trend Micro Internet Security Pro 2009 expired. Really, it shouldn’t be because I had Trend Micro Internet Security 2008 last year which didn’t expire until late November, but when I got 2009 last October, I thought I could go ahead and install it and keep the same expiration date. But because the Pro version is different than the regular version, there was no such deal and it was like throwing away six weeks of my purchase (free after rebates).

Knowing the expiration was coming up (it won’t let you forget), I have been keeping an eye on Fry’s ads to see when the new version would come out and if I could get it for free after rebate again. So far only the regular version seems to be out and it is $5 after rebates. I think I can do better. But what to do in the meantime? I knew Trend would stop downloading the latest virus definitions and software updates, but I didn’t realize it wouldn’t even scan my hard drive anymore. So I felt like I needed a stopgap and figured I would try some free software.

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Lithium Ion Flashlights

I think I’m almost done learning about flashlights. This weekend I researched lithium ion batteries and how they relate to flashlights. This is because the tiny flashlight I bought can be powered by a lithium ion battery, though it is not recommended (this is different from disposable lithium batteries like Energizer sells that you only use once but have more power than alkalines). But if you put one in there it will make the flashlight much brighter (and potentially burn it out if you leave it running for very long on the highest brightness setting). One problem with Li-ion batteries is they tend to explode or catch fire. Just about all of the cases where laptops, iPods, or other devices catch fire are because of Li-ion batteries. Many Li-ion batteries come with circuit protection that is supposed to kick in if the voltage of the battery gets too high or if it gets too low (both are bad).

There are a lot of different sizes of Li-ion batteries denoted with a number that tells you the diameter, length, and shape. For instance the battery that replaces a AAA battery is called a 10440 which breaks down to 10 mm diameter, 44 mm long, and 0 for a round shape. These batteries are too small to include protection circuits. Most of the batteries supply 3.6 (or 3.7) volts nominally but you charge them 4.2 volts and they need to be recharged when they get down to 2.8 volts or something like that. Because they are supplying more than twice the voltage of a regular 1.5 volt alkaline or 1.2 volt NiMH battery, it makes sense they will be brighter. But you have to make sure you get a flashlight that is made for that higher voltage.

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Are Rechargeable Batteries Cost Effective?

Jeb sent me this article where the guy says rechargeable batteries are rarely cost-effective. Here’s what I wrote back:

He’s right to some extent, but it surprises me that he doesn’t have a digital camera in his house. Those go through batteries pretty quickly and just about everybody has one. Though maybe he has one that uses a special battery instead of standard AA’s. Flashlights go through batteries pretty quickly too if you use them regularly, though I think I’ve only had to recharge mine twice in the six months or so that I’ve owned it (that may go up as I take the dogs for walks more often at night with the shorter days). The Archos eats through batteries too, as do some CD players that people might use every day. At the store I see packages of 24 disposable batteries and I have a hard time believing that someone buying a package like that couldn’t replace at least a few of those with rechargeables.

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Bridge Work

After the floods it didn’t seem like very many bridges were washed out, but a few have been identified that they want us to replace. Today my group went out and looked at this bridge. The entire middle support fell over and somehow the bridge stayed up despite having no support. We have to work up plans for a new bridge as soon as possible so that construction can start and we can re-open the road. But meanwhile the road will still be shut for 6-9 months. I don’t want to put on the blog where the road is. These pictures were taken by other people, so I am not in any of them.





Going Gear

I have been pretty good about not getting anymore flashlights and really don’t need anymore flashlights, but I did end up buying a really small AAA light recently (I’ll write more about it later). I wound up getting it from a website called because they had reasonable shipping rates and a 10% off discount code. I was surprised to be charged sales tax, but it turns out they are located in Smyrna.

GoingGear has some neat stuff. It is mostly camping gear. They have a neat video about the iTP flashlight I got on their home page. Under “most popular items” they have an array of “firesteel” products. These are rods made of iron, magnesium, and rare earth metals that you can rub quickly with the back of a knife and flaming globs of magnesium come off to help you start a fire. The YouTube video he has on this page shows how it works. Anything that makes showers of sparks like that and helps me start a fire when I don’t have a lighter or matches and only costs $2 is something I need to have. However, I will admit that I don’t think I have ever in my life needed to start a fire when I didn’t have matches or a lighter. Still, *firesteel*! So I got the “bobcat” size (larger than squirrel and mouse sizes, smaller than moose or wolf sizes).

Also in the firebug category were these powdery rocks that catch fire fairly easily when exposed to the sparks and help you then get a real fire going with some more tinder. The powdery rocks even float in water and repel water themselves, so you can make a fire when it is pretty damp out. Another kind of neat video here.

The last kind of neat thing he demonstrates in a video on his home page is a line of pens and notebooks called Rite in the Rain. These let you write (in the rain?) on paper that is water resistant and the ink doesn’t run even when submerged. I could see where if you had some kind of field work to do that sometimes had you out in the rain (like a park ranger or something) that would be neat to have. I did not buy any of that or the wet fire stuff, but it was neat seeing it in action.

Third Quarter Report

Along with the economy in general, my web site revenues seemed to have put the worst behind them, but the recovery is slow. I had three months in a row where I will earn a payment from Amazon (greater than $10 worth of commissions earned) whereas last quarter I only had one. AdSense is still anemic, but I got $5 in September. Somebody bought a couple of LED flashlight bulbs, so that sale almost certainly came from a link on the blog when I wrote about those. The most expensive item I sold was a Casio Men’s Pathfinder Multi-Band Solar Atomic Black Watch for $167.92. That locked in a payment for the month all by itself with a commission of $10.08. For the quarter I sold 40 items worth $1,060.52, earning $54.38.