House Technology

Tough Year for Hard Drives

In the past 8 months I’ve replaced no less than five separate hard disk drives, all SATA and all relatively modern vintages.  Not sure what’s happening, exactly, except that all but the most recent two were under warranty at the time.  Maybe the new Michigan climate isn’t compatible with long lived drive life?


House Work

New House, New Job

Doing a bit of time travel here, but it is worth noting that in 2013 I…

  • Left my Silicon Valley job, friends, aircraft and lifestyle behind
  • Moved to Detroit, Michigan
  • Joined the largest company I’ve ever worked for in a new-to-me industry
  • Sold my old town home
  • Bought a new home
  • Endured the worst winter that Michigan has seen in nearly 130 years

So, there’s all that happening in a single yearly post.

House Rants

When Drones (Ants) Attack

Since we’ve entered Season One (cold and wet) of the Northern California weather cycle it must be time for the ants to enter the house and disrupt things. And that they did just 24 short hours ago. Seems that ants don’t like to float around out in the windy, rainy weather we’re having so they decided to make a straight line into my humble abode. Not only that, but they decided the best way in was via the second floor, across the carpet, down the stairs and into the living room. Odd, I would have thought coming straight in one of the ground floors would be easier.

No matter, as they have now all been dispatched and vacuumed up. Until the next time we meet, later ants.


General House Technology

The Hoopty DTV Antenna

If someone ever wanted to know what lengths I would go to in order to get high def TV programming, this is it.  With a large helping of PVC pipe, fittings, caps, a half mile of coax, an indoor FM antenna, a UHF/VHF combiner, some bolts, wing nuts, washers and a bonafide real antenna (DB2) I have produced this monster eyesore on my patio deck.


It points toward Sutro Tower where most of the Bay Area’s HDTV transmission antennas are located and it doesn’t do half bad, considering I’m more than 50 miles away.  It’s reasonably weatherproof and it doesn’t cost a fortune (at least not yet).  It picks up almost all the stations I care about and feeds them to my DirecTV HR20 and Windows Vista Media Center PC.  It is even reasonably wind-proof, as evidenced by recent 40+ MPH winds. 

In short, it seems to work pretty well even if it is sad to look at.

General House

The Earthquake

I can now say that I’ve fully lived through an earthquake.  This week a 5.6 magnitude trembler rolled, quite literally, through the house at around 8pm.  Furniture moved, things swayed, and dishes clanked.  And it was all over in about 30 seconds.  I’ve certainly been through earthquakes before, but strangely never at home and not one this big.

Nothing was ruined and only a few items fell out of place.  Best of all there wasn’t a sense of real panic or desperation, just a feeling that something was going bonkers and that I should probably find a spot where things won’t fall on my head to ride it out.  I certainly want to acquire some safety gear and supplies now, though.

General House Rants

Holiday Downtime, Drivers, and Renewals Oh My

After a short 3 days and change in OK, plus a day and a half in Tahoe, I get a short rest in San Jose for the next week.  Well, that isn’t really true, as I must now scramble to get all of the work done to make it to CES this coming weekend and all next week.  But at least for today it seemed a bit more subdued than usual, or maybe I’m just not sure what to call the time you have outside of work.

What did get me wondering about stuff is the temperature at the house, which is hovering in the 65F area and can’t seem to recover from that range.  Perhaps its from a week of having the heater turned off, but the poor thermostat just can’t seem to catch up to the temperature/time settings as they arrive on schedule.  In the meantime I’ll be wearing my fleece, thank you very much.

On the heavily annoying side of things are drivers who clearly don’t understand where they are or what they are doing, thus preventing me from making to or from any location in my usual speed and grace (which is to say I provide neither).  I’m not sure, but it seems that during the holidays people must fly to the Bay Area and drive around like lost, drunken lemmings just to spite me.

Finally I am spanked again for not having all of my end of the year memberships done.  I went to the R/C field to fly today and my membership in that club wasn’t completed, so I was sidelined.  I come home to find my AAA membership expired, and I’m sure all of my magazine and professional organization memberships have lapsed as well.  Can’t any of these things be setup on auto-pay?

General House

Good Flights, Bad Disposal

As the ski season has drawn to a close, I switch my attention to aircraft again. This past weekend saw both of the airplanes up and flying again after the winter weather kept them indoors. I was a little rusty, but quickly found my skills coming back after some circuits around the field. That is good news, to be sure, since it means no need to quickly replace another airplane (or all the parts that go with it) in the fleet.

On the down side, my under sink disposal unit decided to go belly up. For those who have not had to replace one of these devices let me just say that its a hard, ugly, and smelly job that you really should pay someone else to do if you can afford to. Me, I thought it would be cake, so I opted to do it myself.� Half a day after I started I finally had all the parts and tools needed, minus about $120 for the disposal unit. It works now but I certainly don’t want to have to replace something like that again any time soon.

General House

One Step Closer to Wired Bliss

Tonight (or this morning) I took one small step toward hardwired ethernet and phone line goodness in the house. I’ve now wired the spare bedroom directly into the downstairs office, eliminating what I hope will be the last of the connectivity problems with the remote PCs.

There is still stuff to do, like cleaning things up, painting and patching walls, and the like.  But with the connection now working up and downstairs, it seems like things are on the road to networked utopia.


The Zen of Cable Pulling

Some progress forward was made today in correcting a job around the home that I started a few weeks ago: putting a network and phone cable up to the room above my office.  Thanks to Don, Lisa and Natalie (but mostly Don and Lisa) I learned the fine art of tearing out a chunk of wall to drill down between floors, then pull cable, and then carefully put the wall back together again.

Things are pretty now, but I hope to have it all up and fixed soon.  I’ll post photos once I recover from all the drywall dust.

General House

My First Craigslist sale

I wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out, but I sold my first item via Craigslist: the component rack. I got $49 for it, even though I posted the ad at $60. In the end, it was something I wasn’t using so I’m glad to be free of it.

I’ll consider this money towards the new equipment and car, although the scale is off by a little bit.