captpackrat: (TV)
While the new house was wired for satellite, the old house wasn't.  Instead, the former occupants had put up a small VHF antenna and wired it into the east bedroom (which became my SO's).  The antenna worked adequately until the switch to digital TV, when nearly all the local stations switched from VHF to UHF.  The old antenna became utterly useless.  My SO tried to make due with an indoor antenna, but something happened recently and reception went to pot.  He started becoming very frustrated, so I went out and bought the biggest, most powerful antenna I could find along with an outdoor amplifier.  It's an RCA VHF/UHF antenna that claims to have a 100 mile range and is rated Green (medium-long range) by itself and Purple (extreme range) with an amplifier.

(This is a different antenna from the one I installed a couple weeks ago; that one was for my room only.  There is no wiring between the two rooms and running a wire would be very difficult.)

About 2:30 this afternoon I started working on replacing the old antenna.  It was mounted atop a 10 or 12 foot mast with one end driven into the ground and attached to the side of the roof part-way up.  Disconnecting the mast from the roof was easy enough, and I only had to climb 4 rungs on the ladder.  The ground was fairly muddy, so pulling the mast out of the ground would have been easy, had the former occupants not driven a couple twisted wires into the mud, presumably as some sort of (totally inadequate) ground.  Those wires managed to grab the mud making it nearly impossible to pull the mast out.  The clamp holding the wire onto the mast was stuck and didn't want to come loose.  Finally, with a ton of effort, I managed to wrench the mast out of the ground.

Only to discover problem number two: the installers left almost no slack in the cable and had securely taped the cable to the mast, well above my head, so that it was impossible to simply lay the mast down.  I had to pick the whole thing up and maneuver it around carefully, making sure not to smash out the nearby basement window, until I could get enough slack to lay the mast down.

I started cutting the straps of electrical tape to loosen the cable, then discovered problem number three, and the worst one so far.  The previous occupants had used half a roll of electrical tape around the connectors, which years of sun had baked into a solid plastic block.  There was no way to cut through it or peel it off.  Since the wire came out of the wall with no connectors, I would have to cut the wire and install a new connector.

I've got tons of tools for fashioning UTP ethernet cables, but I've never had to work with coax before, so I didn't have any tools.  I knew the local small-town hardware store wouldn't have anything, so I had to drive about an hour round-trip to Menards. I bought an RCA kit that claimed to have "everything" needed to attach connectors to cable.  I drive home, open the kit... and discover it doesn't have "everything", in fact, it's a whole lot of nothing.  Near as I can figure, the tool the kit comes with is for inserting the cable into the connector, you still need to strip and crimp the cable yourself.  I suppose I could improvise with a pocket knife and a pair of pliers, but this is going to be outside for years and years, so I'd rather do the job right.

I hop back in my car and drive the half-hour to Menards, pick up a pricey universal cable stripper (for coax, UTP and flat phone cables) and an even pricier ratcheting coax crimper.  If you're buying tools, might as well buy good ones, right?  Another half-hour drive home, then I start working on the cable.  By this time, the sun has gone down and it's beginning to get dark out.

The cable stripper works like a charm, once I figure out which way the cable goes in.  I jam a connector onto the end, then stick it into the crimper and give it a squeeze.  The crimper seizes up solid.  I can't open it, I can't squeeze it any farther, and there doesn't appear to be any sort of emergency release.  I try banging it on the concrete, I try stepping on it, but nothing works.  It was finally dark out before I gave up.

It should have taken a couple hours at most to replace this antenna.  So far I've spent nearly 5 hours on it, and I'll have at least another hour long drive tomorrow to return this broken crimper and try to find something else.  And I'm not even half way finished.
captpackrat: (Ratphone)
(These instructions also apply to the Droid X and probably several other phones)

1.  Insert the USB plug into the jack on the bottom of the phone.
2.. Realize you're trying to insert the plug upside-down and flip it over.
3.  Insert the USB plug into the jack on the bottom of the phone.
4.  Realize you've been trying to plug into the HDMI jack.
5.  Insert the USB plug into the other jack on the bottom of the phone.
6.  Realize you're still trying to insert the plug upside-down and flip it over again.
7.  Finally manage to insert the USB plug right-side up into the correct jack.

Lusty Lynx

Jun. 2nd, 2010 02:07 pm
captpackrat: (Fail)
I spent about 10 hours last night upgrading my netbook to the latest version of Ubuntu, Lusty Lucid Lynx.  The download for the update is nearly 900 Megs.  I think that's bigger than the last service pack I installed on Vista.  Naturally, such a large download meant that my ISP decided to utterly suck so it took well into the early morning before it finished.

During the install, it asked me where I wanted to install GRUB 2, the program that actually boots the operating system.  Without GRUB, nothing happens.  Alas, the "help" file provided is a bit confusing; it made it sound like I was supposed to install GRUB to /dev/sda1, so I did.  The upgrade process finished, the machine rebooted and...  GRUB error message and a recovery command prompt.  Great.  Did some Googling and finally found a webpage that gave instructions on how to fix it.

First you have to boot to a Live CD.  Easier said than done.  Apparently many of the USB cables I have around here are crap because my external CD drive kept flaking out.  I finally located a good cable and got Ubuntu Kinky Karmic Koala running.  You then have to mount the file system on the hard drive and use it to install GRUB to the correct location, /dev/sda.  

For those who are interested, the exact command list is:
sudo fdisk -l
sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt
sudo mount --bind /dev /mnt/dev
sudo mount --bind /proc /mnt/proc
sudo mount --bind /sys /mnt/sys
sudo chroot /mnt

(optional, only if you're on Ubuntu/Debian) apt-get install grub-pc
grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg
grub-install /dev/sda
(try grub-install --recheck /dev/sda if it fails)
Ctrl+D (to exit out of chroot)
sudo umount /mnt/dev
sudo umount /mnt

So I finally got Ubuntu back up and running, only to discover the netbook interface had been forced upon me again.  Originally they had an app for switching between the netbook desktop and the classic desktop, but this was removed with Koala, but I was still able to manually disable it.  With Lynx, however, they locked out the procedure that I'd used before.  (When did Steve Jobs start working for Canonical?)   I spent another hour or so before I discovered you switch to the standard GNOME desktop by logging out and selecting it from a menu that appears at the bottom of the screen while you're typing in your password. 

GNOME boots up this time...  but the desktop panel is completely blank.  There isn't even a button to shut down.  So I set about trying to rebuild the panel, then had to spend an insane amount of time trying to figure out where the networking icon disappeared to.  It's part of the Notification Area applet, naturally.  Obvious and Ubuntu are two words you never find in the same book, let alone the same sentence.

And then I discovered that the upgrade program uninstalled Pidgin (and deleted all my settings) and tried to foist Empathy on me.  Gee, thanks.  Got that straightened out.  There's some pretty annoying features with Lynx, like being unable to configure some of the icons on the desktop panel and being required to use some programs like Evolution.  (Jobs, is that you?)

I think I've got everything working again, though I tried setting up Gwibber and it didn't appear to do anything.  Ubuntu used to be getting better with each release, but I think they took a real step backwards with this one.
captpackrat: (Weasels Ripped My Flesh)
I was expecting a package from UPS today.  They didn't deliver until 6:15, well after dark, and the driver left the package all the way down at the end of the driveway.  So I had to walk a half mile in the dark to go get it.  Thanks a lot.  At least it wasn't too horrifically cold (just below freezing) or windy and the snow and sleet won't start until tomorrow.
captpackrat: (This Bites)
I preordered a copy of Scribblenauts and Amazon shipped it last week via extra-slow snail mail.  I kept visiting their site to track the package, and it finally said that it had arrived at the local post office this morning.

So I get in my car and drive allllllll the way over there (it's about 15 minutes away), but my box was empty.  I wait in line for about 5 minutes and finally get to the front.  I ask about my package.  Yes, they have it.  It came in too late for them to put it in my box.  And no, they can't just give it to me, I have to wait until tomorrow.


So I'm going to have to drive a half-hour round trip again to pick up the package that's right there on the counter.   Augh!  If the Postal Service is that rigid, no wonder they're losing money.

As if that wasn't enough of a kick in the teeth, I just missed the barber and he wouldn't be back for 3 hours AND the Dairy Queen clone in town is closed on Tuesdays.  So it really was a totally wasted trip.

captpackrat: (Homer Strangling Bart)
The inner slide rule bezel just came off my Citizen Skyhawk watch.  Figures, the warranty just expired, too.

EDIT:  And naturally, the battery is dead on my old Casio.
captpackrat: (Argh!)
I was in the middle of doing my first load of laundry when the water stopped again.  At first I thought there was something wrong with the washing machine because it just sat there, making a funny noise.  Fortunately the water ran out just before it would have normally switched off, so I was able to trick the machine into continuing with the rinse cycle.  I have a bad habit of waiting until I'm out of clean clothes before doing the laundry.  If I hadn't done the whites first, or if the water had run out earlier, I'd be going commando tomorrow.

My roommate bought an extension cord and a incandescent shop light, which we lowered into the well.  We then sealed the manhole and I covered the manhole and top of the well with a sheet of R.5 insulating foam.  That should heat up the pipes and stuff quite nicely.

I sure wish this well had one of those old-fashioned hand pumps, then we could at least have water for flushing the toilets and doing dishes.

captpackrat: (Argh!)
I was wondering why every so often all the web sites I normally visit, like LJ and FA, would lose all my custom settings.  Apparently when AVG 8 detects a "tracking cookie", it helpfully DELETES THE ENTIRE COOKIES.TXT FILE!  That means every single cookie in Firefox gets wiped out, not just the tracking cookie.  Thanks, Grisoft!
captpackrat: (Taxes)
I finished my taxes nearly 6 weeks ago, but I hadn't mailed them out yet because I owe money.  Good thing, since today I received some new paperwork.  Apparently there was some "long-term capital loss carryover" from my inheritance that I have to account for.  I'm not sure, but I think that means a possible reduction in my taxes.  That's a good thing, though it also means redoing most of my paperwork.

EDIT:  WOOHOO!  I owe nothing at all now on my taxes!
captpackrat: (Cooking - Kiwi)
It's rather annoying, I go to the supermarket and about 2/3rds of the "juice" they have for sale isn't pure juice, it's a little bit of juice mixed with water and sugar high fructose corn syrup.  Some brands are as low as 1% juice!

And even when you do find something that's 100% juice, chances are it's not 100% of the kind of juice on the front label.  Recently I saw a bottle of 100% "Pomegranate" juice, but according to the ingredients list, it's mostly apple or grape juice, pomegranates are third on the list.

Lately I've been trying to drink less soda and more fruit juice, but it's really difficult when the labels try so hard to be deceptive.  Although juice has about as many calories as soda, it also has vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, polyphenols and other important nutrients.  Since I have a bad habit of not eating as many vegetables as I should, I'm hoping a glass of apple juice a day will keep the doctor away.
captpackrat: (Fail - Bob Barker)
I really wish supermarkets would use abreviations that make sense on their receipts.  It took me forever to figure out what "18CTGRAALARG" was.  I didn't remember buying any Graalarg.  It turned out to be "18 count Grade AA Large (eggs).  Why not just say freaking "EGGS"?

There's also one straight out of the Simpsons, "CAR WHOLE".  I think that was supposed to be Car(rots), Whole.

Wal*Mart and Sam's Club have the worst receipts ever.

I got a bit of a chuckle at the Try 'N Save Bag 'N Save today as the register rang up "NAKED MIGHTY MAN".

captpackrat: (Weather - Dr. George)
Anyone else here use Weather Underground?

I've noticed a peculiarity in their weather photos section.  If I try to give a photo a low score, it totally ignores my vote.  It will give me the "Already rated" screen, but it won't change the current rating nor will it advance the number of times the image has been rated.

I tried e-mailing the photo admin there, but never heard anything back.

Is this a bug?  Do they have some system where they throw out the highest and lowest votes, like in figure skating?  Or do they just ignore low votes in some touchy-feely-don't-hurt-anyone's-feelings kind of thing?
captpackrat: (This Bites)
[personal profile] animale and I went grocery shopping this afternoon, and we got home literally minutes before a powerful thunderstorm hit.  There wasn't that much lightning, but the wind was really whipping around.  Winds were gusting to around 50 MPH.  We also got about 7/10ths of an inch of rain in under 15 minutes.  (This is after 5 inches of rain in 48 hours a couple days ago).  My weather radio kept going off every few minutes as Severe Thunderstorm Warnings spread across most of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa.

Shortly after the thunderstorm hit, the power went out and stayed out until about 9 pm.

What sucks about a power failure isn't the lights being out (I have flashlights and electric candles), no TV (I have a battery powered LCD TV), no radio (my Sirius boombox has battery backup) or no Internet (I have Web access on my cellphone if I get desperate).  What really sucks about a power failure is no air conditioning and no fans.  Especially when it's this hot and humid.

Ugh, tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter, with the heat index up around 111°F (44°C).

Even though I lived just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean in San Diego, it never really got all that humid there, not like it is here.  100°F when the humidity is 10% is very tolerable.  100°F when the humidity is 50 or 60% is downright oppressive.


May. 5th, 2007 01:43 am
captpackrat: (Sim Billy on Fire)

There's a tiny hole in the screen in the living room.

The windows are open.

My bedroom is directly off the living room.

My door is open.

My light is on.

My shirt is off.

I've got five million moth and mosquito terrorists making suicide runs at me every 10 seconds.


I've sprayed myself down with OFF, turned as many lights off in my room as I can (but I still need a light to see my keyboard, and the monitor is pretty bright too), and turned the light on in the living room hoping to lure them away, but one of the bugs still dive bombs me every couple minutes.   *flail*
captpackrat: (Homer in the Land of Chocolate)
I found a box of chocolate-covered peppermint Altoids today.  Apparently they also make cinnamon and ginger flavors with chocolate as well.   The mint flavored variety at first tastes rather like an Andes mint, until the chocolate coating dissolves.

I was shopping at Sam's Club today and turned my back for just a moment and someone swiped my cart!  Is it my imagination or are people just getting more and more rude while grocery shopping?

While at Sam's Club, I found a huge and heavy steel stock pot.  Upon seeing my reaction to it (another friend described it as "orgasmic"), my SO grabbed one off the shelf and added it to the (new) cart.  It's made of 18/10 stainless steel, holds 20 quarts, and the lid alone weighs more than the flimsy aluminum 12 quart pot I was using.  And it was a mere $40!  We're having soup tonight!
captpackrat: (Ratmobile)
For the past 15 years, I had insurance through the Automobile Club of Southern California.  Not only were they one of the cheapest auto insurance companies, but they had great customer service and they were the only insurance company not to fight Prop 103 (a voter approved law reducing insurance rates).  Unfortunately, they're not licensed to sell insurance in Nebraska, so I'm being forced to change companies.

So I figured I'd sign up with AAA Nebraska for car insurance.  Their rates are really great, a mere $600 a year for $100K/300K/50K coverage and only a $100 deductible.  But their customer service seems to really suck.  My policy with the Auto Club expired on the 13th, and I'd requested an effective date on the new policy of the 14th.  Well, today was the 15th, and I still haven't received any paperwork, let alone the all important Proof of Insurance card.  Without that card, I can't legally drive anywhere.  I also can't finish the process of switching my registration to Nebraska.

They'd better get their act together quick or I may have to find another insurance company.

Fortunately I'm allowed to keep my AAA membership through the Auto Club until it expires next year, but then I'll have to switch it over to AAA Nebraska.  Bleah.
captpackrat: (Gadget Spacesuit)
Waiting for my car to be finished. I called the shop yesterday and they said it would be done today. It's already after 1:30 pm, and no news yet.

This stupid rental SUV is SUCKING gas at a phenomenal rate. The trip computer claims I'm getting 11.3 MPG, but I think it's overestimating. I've only driven about 170 miles in the past week, but spent $41 on gas. I normally buy gas every two weeks for my Caprice, at about $50 a tank.

I finally managed to get ActiveSync 4.1 removed and 3.8 reinstalled. The 4.x version is required for Windows Mobile 5.0 but it has some quirks, doesn't allow you to sync over the network and doesn't work at all with some older PDAs. And if you attempt to uninstall it, it leaves behind a couple files that prevent you from ever using the older 3.8 version. You have to uninstall 4.1, delete the files rapi.dll and ceutil.dll from the \Windows\System32\ folder, reboot your computer, then and only then can you install 3.8. If it took me weeks to find the solution, what is Joe "Oooh, they have the Internet on computers now" Sixpack supposed to do?

For some reason putting the PDA in the cradle disables my keyboard until you uncradle the PDA. Weird.

I removed the 6.0 version of AvantGo and installed the last version that was integrated with Pocket IE, version 3.3. What an incredible difference in speed. It took version 6.0 a whopping TEN MINUTES to sync my channels, the client is slow, sucks up tons of RAM, the interface is clunky and hard to use and the fonts are so big as to be nearly unreadable. Version 3.3 took about 20 seconds to do a full sync, Pocket IE is extremely quick to load, it's much easier to use and the fonts are just the right size. Congratulations, AvantGo, on screwing up a good thing!

I went to the maul today to buy my grandmother a box of chocolates and to shop for a new knife. Because I don't have nearly enough knives. ;) The knife I wanted turned out to be $35, forget it. At the See's candy shop, I was looking though the various boxes of chocolate, and it all looked so good, so I told the lady behind the counter, "I'll take one piece of each!" After she'd gotten though the first two cabinets of candy, it had already added up to over 2 pounds, so I decided to stop there, I'll come back later to buy the rest. ;) And then I remembered I was there to buy candy for my grandmother, not me, so I got a box of her two favorites, pecan clusters and cocoanut.

I can't help but snicker every time I see a riced car with a huge wing ("It looks like it could fly!") or intake ("It's definitely sucking!"). There was a whole row of rice in the parking lot, so I was laughing out loud all the way to the car.
captpackrat: (Hiding in the plants)
I love it when people keep me out of the loop.

The company I work for recently invested a large amount of money into a service dispatch system that has so far proven to be rather buggy.

Worse, only now am I finding out that to make full use of this software, we're going to have to run our own web server. Thanks for letting me know in advance so I could put it in the freaking BUDGET!

I guess I can make our 5 year old copy of Symantec Anti-Virus last another year. :P
captpackrat: (Weasels Ripped My Flesh)
I'm trying to get the company's remote office switched over from incredibly sucktastic Verizon DSL to a Broadwing T1.

Neither the T1 provider nor phone company bothered to tell me I needed a demarc extension until a couple days before the first scheduled install. I tell my boss they need to get someone out here FAST to do the work (this is a large construction company, it shouldn't be that difficult). Nobody gets out here until the day of the install, and then he discovers that the circuit they tagged is already in use. By then, of course, the appointment has passed. So I call the provider to get the correct circuit ID and reshedule. They repeat the same number they'd given before, so I ask them to confirm it with the phone company. They'll get back to me. Days pass, and the second appointment comes and goes, and still no info. Finally the phone company sends someone out to the site to properly tag the lines. So I make a THIRD appointment, and tell my boss they NEED to get someone out here FAST to do the extension.

So here we are, the day of the 3rd scheduled installation attempt, and nothing has been done. Supposedly someone would be here at 7 am to do the extension, but it's 7:30 now and no one has shown up. The install appointment is at noon, and we may need to run new cable through a conduit underneath the parking lot. Fun Fun Fun!

I got up at 5:30 in the morning and drove for nearly an hour to get here (for the third time) and it's looking more and more like I'm going to have to do it again. If we miss today's appointment, I'm going to schedule the next one for a day I have off, that way I can charge overtime.

EDIT: Turns out there aren't enough wire pairs running from the demarc to this office trailer to do the T1, and the conduit under the parking lot is too full to run a new line that far. We will have to get someone out to piggy back off another trailer's 24 pair cable. So no T1 install today.
captpackrat: (Argh!)
Climbed up on the roof today to get a look at the remains of the antenna and mast. As I suspected, the point of failure was the roof attachment point for the guy wires; it had rusted completely through. (Who the hell uses non-galvanized, non-stainless steel components on a roof?)

The antenna was totally destroyed, with half the elements broken or irreparably bent. I was surprised just how fragile those things are; I was able to pull the elements off as easy as plucking a chicken. Several of the elements had pierced into the asphalt roof material, a couple of them several inches. I cut the remaining guy wires and the antenna and rotor wires, and lowered the antenna to the ground.

I headed over to the nearest Lowes and bought a tube of polyurethane asphalt sealant, then climbed back up onto the roof and squeezed the oozy stuff into the holes. The sealant has an odd smell, almost like chocolate, and it was thick and dark like frosting. I wonder how many kids have tried to eat this stuff.

Now I had to prepare the remains of the antenna for disposal. The mast itself was made of steel, and was in relatively good condition. The center section had a generous coating of rust, but it was still quite solid. The other segments appear to have been galvanized, and had only minimal corrosion. It could have easily stood for another 30 years if it hadn't been for the guy wires. The wires themselves were in fair shape, quite rusty, but still reasonably strong. All the connectors on the mast had rusted solid, but were still strong enough that it took quite a bit of work with a hacksaw to cut through them. I cut through the bolts holding the rotor onto the mast, and that also separated the antenna. I then plucked the remaining elements off the antenna, then sawed through the relatively soft aluminium until I had pieces small enough for the trash.

I haven't done anything with the mast yet. If I dispose of it, I'll have to try to saw through the thick steel several times to cut it into pieces small enough for the garbage can. The connector points are too badly rusted to unscrew, but the shaft itself seems in fairly good shape.

At least the wind instruments that were attached to the mast were completely unharmed, though they are now homeless. I need to come up with some way to mount them at least 10 feet above the peak of the roof. I can either salvage the old mast, perhaps shortening it a bit, or try to built a new mast, perhaps of light but strong PVC sewer pipe. Or I can purchase a new tripod mast specifically designed for this weather station, with platforms and connection points so that all the instruments can be mounted in one place. The biggest problem is I'm not sure how to mount something to a hot-mopped asphalt roof without potentially compromising its waterproofness.

After getting everything cleaned up I almost broke my ankle stepping into a damn gopher hole. If I ever see one of those things, I'm soooo going to blow it's head off with a shotgun.


captpackrat: (Default)
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