zen.org Communal Weblog

August 28, 2005

Never thought hanging up would be a thrill

Filed under: — brendan @ 21:22 GMT

For about three years, we’ve had a constant problem with our phone. Pick it up, make a call via OneSuite, and hang up. Pick up the line again, and OneSuite’s still there. Finally it’s fully hung up, and you take it off the hook, dialing 1-800- but change your mind…hang up. Pick it up, it’s still there waiting for a call. Call voice mail, hang up, but it’s still there when you pick it back up. Gahhhhh. This was incessant.

Meanwhile, we were using a few wireless phones in our house, though we found it would sometimes be making an amazing crackling sound while we’re doing the call. It would be worse if the microwave was going, but under normal circumstances it was fairly frequent. Our friend John, when Elana described the problem to him, pointed out that our wireless phones were operating at the same frequency as our barrage of wireless networking equipment: 2.4GHz. D’oh!

Elana went looking around and discovered a sale on 5.8GHz wireless phones. We’ve gotten a base and a few handsets, replaced everything, and the noise was gone!

But around the same time, we weren’t able to receive calls with any reliability at all. Everyone was telling us calling our number went straight to the voicemail hosted by our phone company. Sometimes we’d hear the phone ring and be excited, thinking it had somehow corrected itself. But no such luck. And still we can’t make it actually hang up properly. I went outside to the box on our house where the phone line comes in from the pole on the street, opened it up, and plugged the phone in there. No problem, worked perfectly. So it’s something inside our house causing all of the headaches.

Today, I decided to attack the problem and try to figure out what was going on. A journey down into the basement where the line is sent from the box outside, then into the garage where the wires split up, and finally to the different phone jacks. Nothing obvious in the wiring.

I cut a phone cable and hooked it up to my little Radio Shack digital multimeter turned on to measure DC voltage. It said it was 48.4 VDC for exactly 23 seconds, then it dropped to 6.44 for not even one second and then up to 9.5 VDC for 30 seconds. Back to 48.4 (phone on-hook), wait 23 seconds, etc etc. When it was holding at 48.4 for a moment I picked up the phone, and the multimeter reported 6.44. Hung up, and it held at 9.5 for about 30 seconds. Then I watched, and it repeated the pattern over and over.

I first thought it was the base for our new wireless phones that caused it, so I unplugged it from the jack in the wall. Voila, the multimeter held at 48.4 VDC for a few minutes. Out of curiosity, I plugged it back in and unplugged the phone line that fed both our Hughes GCEB0 receiver and our TiVo (Series2, running the not-hacked version of their stuff—the hacked version’s disk died, sigh). The problem went away! No more repeated pickups then unsuccessful hangups.

I made the line just plug into the Hughes satellite receiver, not the TiVo, and it kept happening. Plugged in just the TiVo, not the receiver, and it stopped. So the receiver box has some sort of an issue with anything taking the phone off-hook. The moment it’s taken off-hook, the receiver wants to keep it almost off-hook—at this odd 9.5 VDC level—for about 30 seconds. I’ve not yet found anything to explain these three numbers (48.4 on-hook, 6.44 off-hook, and 9.5 right after it’s been put on-hook ).

But that’s okay! Now the phone’s just plugged into the TiVo (more later about why I’m still fighting to make the TiVo go over our net connection instead of it making never-for-free dialup calls), and we’ll wait for the satellite receiver to care that it’s not got a phone line to use. We don’t to Pay-Per-View on it, so hopefully it’ll go for a nice long time before it complains.

Before I finish, I’ve got to point folks at the Phone Man’s Home Phone Wiring Advice Page. It was a great source of information about the various DC voltage levels involved in a phone being on-hook versus off-hook, along with lots of other goodies and great tips. If you’ve got even the slightest urges to take a DIY approach to handling your home phone system, that page will give you everything you need to set up a second line, and a new jack, or even things far more complex.

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August 27, 2005

Was Pat Robertson's Call For Assassination Of A Foreign Leader A Crime?

Filed under: — brendan @ 17:51 GMT

John W. Dean has put together a great article with the blunt subtitle, “Had he been a Democrat, he’d probably be hiring a criminal attorney.” You’ll really enjoy the rest of it; he starts with:


On Monday, August 22, the Chairman of the Christian Broadcast Network, Marion “Pat” Robertson, proclaimed, on his 700 Club television show, that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez should be murdered.

More specifically, Robertson said, “You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination,” referring to the American policy since the Presidency of Gerald Ford against assassination of foreign leaders, “but if he [Chavez] thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”

“We have the ability to take him out,” Robertson continued, “and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.”

What, Mr Robertson can say this and there’s no outcry, no political storm? Think the reaction would be the same—i.e., none at all—if “Pat Robertson” changed to any name from the Middle East, and “Chavez” was “Blair” ?

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Google has retired the practicality of the bookmark

Filed under: — brendan @ 02:28 GMT

For the nth time, I’ve brought down my browser’s Bookmarks tab, and closed it a moment later. The array of items stacked up there is stunning. At some particular moment in time I figured I’d go back and finish reading that page soon, or refer to it later. But have I? Nope, don’t think so.

Anything important usually ends up in one of the four small folders in my Personal Toolbar Folder. But as I look over them now, I see how few I’ve actually touched in even a year. Or two. Or more.

Time to blow away the bookmarks, and just accept I’ve weaned myself off them completely. Any random piece of information I need, google seems to provide. Amazing control position they have, huh?

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Why the wireless never worked

Filed under: — brendan @ 02:27 GMT

Early last year, we spend a significant amount of time trying to figure out why the wireless connection between our house and some neighbors up the road just refused to work reliably. Sometimes it’d be going along just fine, then suddenly it would stop working. We were away, and it would work then not. Nothing seemed to be a clear cause. (By the way, we were having the exterior our house painted at the time.)

Fast-forward about a year. I’m upstairs, and have my laptop plugged into the wireless stuff trying to make something else work. On a whim, I try to ping the wireless access point that’s up the road. It works! Later that afternoot, we’re there and I sit down at their laptop. I bring up a browser, and then a terminal window. I make it use the ethernet device, then back to the browser: random site, please.

Voila, it works. An idea comes, as I continue to visit random sites successfully.

When I’m home later that night, Elana’s up in the office. I’m upstairs in the house, and give her a call on the house phone. After asking her to start pinging the access point I used earlier, I closed the window sitting in front of the Cantenna that’s doing the wireless connection. Elana quickly reports the pings have stopped.

I pulled down the window. “They’re back,” she announced. Each time the window went up, she said they weren’t responding anymore. When I put it down, they were going again.

Last year, the painters periodically used our upstairs windows to take care of some parts of the house instead of coming up on ladders. Didn’t really pay attention to it at the time.

So now the window’s stayed down for a couple of weeks, and connectivity up the road has been fairly consistent. The windows are double-glazed, but I’ve still got to look into the actual chemical structure of them. What could be 100% messing up the 802.11g wireless connection between our houses?

We’re relieved to know the basic premise of what I dreamed up last year is actually working. The pain: we have to come up with a placement of our Cantenna to be pointed at their house, but withstand things like rain, snow, sleet, and the rest of Mother Nature’s best attempts.

I’m dying to know what makes the windows wreck our connection.

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August 20, 2005

On second thought….

Filed under: — pati @ 07:35 GMT

Geez, what a whiny little pootyhead that “Overbooked” is. Email her & tell her so.

*snicker*

Time for bed….

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Overbooked

Filed under: — pati @ 07:15 GMT

It is eleven days until September and six days until the kids go back to school. My year has sped off without me.

I made a big decision months ago to go back to school and learn web design. I’m working as a consultant doing web content management for the company that laid me off 3 years ago, and winding down my bookkeeping gig of 2 1/2 years. (I gave a four week notice the first week of July, but my replacement wasn’t found until the last week of my employment, and then she only lasted three days. So can’t I please come back to help out???) The grandfather clock has just struck midnight, and I’ve finished all my readings and quizes but not my final assignment on Unit 2 (2 of 6 units for the course). At this rate, December 21st, the deadline to finish the course, will come all too quickly.

Did I mention that I’m the fundraiser for my daughter’s Junior Girl Scout troop? They don’t only sell cookies in the spring, but magazines & nuts in the fall. And there’s talk of some other fundraiser to ensure there’s enough money for the trip they’re planning in three years. (They’ve got to sell plenty of goodies before they’re no longer small & cute, but big & pre-pubescent.)

I’ve signed Merin up for volleyball, Sean up for soccer. Sean may do cub scouts. Merin has a knitting class in mind for November. (Start by making your own knitting needles, learn to knit & they can also choose to do carding, weaving, felt making or even spinning fleece they collect from angora rabbits.) Both Sean & Merin are bugging me about playdates – they miss their friends, why am I not scheduling sleepovers?

I know I’m not alone with a busy life. It’s just that any time I try to cut something out to give me more time, or allow me to do something else, my time evaporates. I’m not a tv buff – the only show I’ll watch regularly is The Daily Show. Movies? I gotta remember to cancel Netflix since we’re not using it much. Although I do dream of getting a maid service to deal with the housecleaning, the looming kitchen remodel and the associated bills have me scampering away from that idea like an angora rabbit. Kids do the chores? Well, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily save me that much time if I have keep hounding the kids to do them.

And I’ve promised Pete that I would can my spicy vegetables this weekend.

Somewhere there are two hours a day I should be able to reclaim. If you find them, let me know where I’ve put them….

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August 11, 2005

Turning My Duel G5 Into a Crappy Speaker System

Filed under: — Sven @ 17:12 GMT

I wish to plug an audio device into my G5 running Tiger and listen to the audio out the speakers. I can rip the audio to a sound file so I know it’s working but I just want to listen. To do this on my Linux box the audio does not even leave the sound card. Any help?

I really hope I’m missing something stupid.

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August 5, 2005

Bloggers’ Rights/Legal Issues

Filed under: — alice @ 23:56 GMT

A little while ago, I came across an interesting bit of information on Media Studies Classroom / Online channel from Irish Media Studies.

In light of recent attempts to silence some bloggers, the US-base free speech advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation has added a fairly detailed Bloggers’ Rights section to their site, from which one can download their Legal Guide for Bloggers. Right now, it references only US law – but they obviously don’t want it to stay that way; to whit:

Please note that this guide applies to people living in the US. We don’t have the expertise or resources to speak to other countries’ legal traditions, but we’d like to work with those who do. If you know of a similar guide for your own jurisdiction or feel inspired to research and write one, please let us know. We can link to it here.

Think any Irish Solicitors or friends/relatives of Solicitors might possibly read or hear about this little post of mine… ? [hint, hint 😀 😀 ]

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Prius Peeves

Filed under: — Sven @ 14:09 GMT

I’ve had my Toyota Prius for almost a month now, I’m about ready for my 1000 mile checkup. According to the on board monitor I’ve been getting over 50MPH, and have been very happy with it. Don’t let the following discourage you from getting one, but here is a list of my peeves:

  • Climate Control. It seems the temperature sensor is only in the front seat. I’m fine driving the car, in the back Daphne and Zoë sweat, so we open the windows (see below). Turning up the AC manually leaves me chilled, and ladies still a little warm.
  • The TV. Everything is wired into that thing. The radio, the AC. I guess they are trying to get you to only buy stuff from Toyota or something. I do not want a half foot screen in my front seat, apart from the MPH graph everything it does would be better if done the old way, a little LED telling me which motor is running and when the battery is recharging would be so much better then the useless eye candy they have to do it. Plus the screen is already all smudged up because it’s a touch screen. A small note to all car makers, please start putting auxilary inputs in your standard radios, I’m stuck with CD and radio input until the radio dies. I guess I’m not getting a ogg player for a long time. MP3 player makers, start griping to car makers about it!
  • Driving with windows open. I don’t think they did any test driving with windows open. When only the drivers seat is open air pressure starts pressing on the ears, and when a back window is open too sometimes a resonance tone starts pounding the ears. The SAAB sometimes had this resonance problem when only the driver window was open, but opening a second window fixed it. I haven’t figured out a sure fire way to fix it on the Prius.
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August 1, 2005

Film Projectors

Filed under: — Sven @ 20:14 GMT

I was sitting here at work cleaning up some Perl code when I started thinking about Film Projectors and VCRs. I remember being excited for a film in school only to be disappointed when in came the VCR and and not the projector. With the projector the lights need to be off in order it see what’s on the screen, not so with the VCR. With the projector one could make the screen huge, some rooms could make it six or seven feet wide! The VCR was limited to two or three feet, making it difficult to see from the middle of the room. When something went wrong with a projector the narrator would start gargling, and once in a while there was a meltdown, but there was usually a fix even if one missed a foot or two of the film. With the VCR there was only tracking problems, and getting the tape tangled brought the entire show to a halt.

Do any Zen readers have a kid in school? Are you a kid in school? Do they still use projectors in school? Film projectors are cool.

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