All posts by OldDogSparky

Setting Up My ClearStream Antenna

Back in Baton Rouge, I had purchased an antenna for tuning over the air (OTA) stations. It didn’t get a lot of use as we were pretty established in our usage of Netflix (and video games) to provide our evening entertainment. That’s roughly the way things are now as well. We’ve added Amazon Prime and I’ve invested a good bit of time moving our TV series over to Plex. Yet there are times when you would like to have a live TV feed that allows you watch a specific news or sports event. It was because of this that I decided to setup the OTA antenna here in our new home.

I installed the antenna in the attic of our 2 story home (I would estimate that it is close to 30 ft. above ground level). I also purchased a SiliconDust HDHomeRun Connect device which is basically a network TV tuner. The antenna connects to the HDHomeRun tuner via coaxial cable and the HDHomeRun connects to our wired network with a cat6 cable (RJ45). With this current location of the antenna, I was able to pick up about 65 stations. I setup Plex DVR to use the HDHomeRun as a tuner and within minutes I had the program guide available (along with the ability to schedule recordings of any of the shows). SiliconDust also has a universal windows app for viewing live TV on Windows 10 and on the Xbox One. It was working remarkable well, but I noticed that I wasn’t receiving PBS (which has some good history shows).

A little digging revealed that the local PBS affiliate uses the VHF band for the signal. When I purchased the antenna, almost all HD stations were on the UHF band so the antenna didn’t receive the VHF spectrum. Fortunately ClearStream has a retrofit kit that added the reception of VHF and provided an integrated adapter to put the two signals together. That did the trick. It bumped the station count from 65 to over 90 (including PBS). One final adjustment to get it pointed directly at the primary location of the TV stations and I was all done.

Great Time To Be a Developer

Was waxing nostalgic with my friend (another older guy like me) at work about the memory limitations we faced as young developers. On the very memory limited Vic 20, I can remember the need to go back and optimize my code so that it would fit within the available RAM (3.5 KB for Basic code). IDEs were non-existent or trivial in their feature set. Even in college, we spent some time with punch cards which had to be one of the most unforgiving ways to get code into a machine. Even later on, it was very expensive to develop software when your choices were Unix (not Linux) or DOS. Ashton-Tate’s DBase cost over $500 (which was a lot in the late 80s). That’s why we flocked to the cheap Turbo Pascal. Visual Studio (and Visual Basic) arrived and started to gobble up the low-end even though it still wasn’t cheap.

Compare that to today where you have multiple free OSs (Linux variants and Android), many free IDEs (Eclipse, Visual Studio and web based tools), several awesome languages (JavaScript, C#, C++, etc.) and great frameworks/platforms (JQuery, .NET, Angular.js, etc.). You even have lots of cheap hardware (Arduino, Raspberry Pi, x86). On top of this there are plenty of free tutorials out there as well. I’ve been using C# a lot lately and even though I will always love Object Pascal, C# is so much easier and expressive than Object Pascal will ever be. JavaScript is extremely versatile as well. Documentation is probably the one area where we’ve somewhat gone backwards and that’s because things change too quickly. There’s no time to update documentation.

If you’ve ever had the desire to learn to code, then take the opportunity to jump in and start creating something great. Grab an Arduino or Raspberry Pi and start reading some tutorials. Download the Visual Studio 2017 community edition and jump into .NET (which runs on Linux and Mac these days). Great hardware, great languages and great environments. What a great time to be a developer.

Picked the iPhone 7

I’ve been contemplating replacing my Windows Mobile phone for a while after having used the OS for several years. I still love the OS, but it was obvious to most that Redmond’s heart wasn’t in it. I needed to have a phone that would provide app support and an expectation of support in the future. I thought that I might find that with the Android OS, but in the end the cost for a flagship device was the same as iOS and I still couldn’t get over my mistrust of Google (investment in info and their willingness to kill off products). I’m sure Android is a lovely OS though.

I’ve had the phone for a couple months and so far it has been rock solid. I’ve found a couple apps to use to replace those that I had on my Win10 Mobile device. Instead of Runtastic, I made the move to the Strava app. Instead of Amazing Weather, I’m using Weather Underground (with the ads removed via yearly fee). Instead of Nextgen Reader, I’m using the Feedly app (a clear step backwards). All in all, Strava is the best of the group and I’m not overly impressed with the app quality of the others (they are decent though and I haven’t had any crashes). iOS is okay. There are a bunch of small improvements, but overall it seems very dated. It took a while to learn all of the “special swipes” to get to a lot of the new features.

In the grand scheme of things, the iPhone 7 is an excellent choice. It is very solid and is definitely responsive (i.e. fast). It’s not an exciting device, but I don’t look to my cell phone for excitement. In fact, if it acts like a reliable phone then I’ll be very happy.