Archive for the ‘Technology’ category

Christmas Cards

January 9, 2019

I declare that the Christmas card season is about over. Yesterday, I received what I expect to be the last card for the season. So it is time to review what happened.

This year I sent out 130 Christmas letters to friends and family spread out across the country. About half are in the Los Angeles area and the other half in the Boston area. Then add a few odd letters to people in North Carolina and Florida.

In 2017, I sent out about 175 letters. This year I spent a great deal of effort trimming the list down to 130. So how many did we receive? Well as best I can count we received a little over 30 cards, letters and holiday pictures. My goal has been to reach out to the people that we have known over the many years.

 

I don’t understand why the cards received is so much lower than the number sent. We love to hear how people are doing. As you can see in the pictures above, we love to post the cards in any available space around out kitchen and dining room.

So my question for my readers. Do you send out holiday/Christmas cards/letters? If not, why not? If yes, why? Perhaps $.50 each for postage might be one answer.

BSOD Update

August 30, 2018

Still dead but making progress. I talked to nice fellow in India this afternoon about the problem. He was very helpful. He walked me through running diagnostics.

So the hard drive and memory are fine. He offered the link for downloading the recovery disk. I told him that wouldn’t work because I had no other computer (other than my iPad) to create the thumb drive.

So he ordered up a recovery thumb drive for me. Shipped out via FedEx this afternoon. I should receive tomorrow afternoon. He was nice enough to waive the fee (about $50). I had told him that I was a retired HP employee. Maybe that helped.

Unfortunately, I will end up scratching my hard drive. Not to worry, 95% of my files are stored in the cloud (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.). I will have to reinstall a bunch of apps that I use, but that’s easy.

Should be a reminder to everyone. Do your backups.

TTFN

Grand Chapter Recording

June 3, 2018

As many of my east coast FB friends who are member of OES, I do the recording of the Grand Chapter session. Ever wonder what I do at the table at the back of the hall next to the sound board? Here is a brief explanation of how I do that.

Hardware

First, here’s the hardware setup. I use a standard Windows 10 laptop. I connect to the hall’s sound board with a Tascam MK122 interface. Tascam no longer makes the model MK122. Here is a reasonable variant that would work, though with a bit more than I would need. It converts standard audio signals to a USB signal. There are two XLR cables. One for each stereo channel. There is also a headphones jack for monitoring the audio.

Software

I used to use a software app called CuBase, but when I upgraded to a new laptop three years ago, the version that I had wouldn’t work. CuBase offered to sell me a new version for about $300. Nope, not gonna do it. The new version of CuBase had way more features than I really needed.

So I started searching for alternatives. I found an app called “Mixcraft” by Acoustica. It seemed to fit my needs and wallet just fine. Here’s a view of the screen while recording:

2018-05-19 13.37.40

The red section of the screen is the currently recording channel. My job during the recording is to balance the input levels. With different speakers and different microphones, I need to make sure that I am getting a solid signal at all times.

Also during the recording, I have an Excel spreadsheet open that I use to log who is speaking and what they’re talking about. This is done so that later I can find a particular speaker and/or report.

Mixcraft uses a project file to manage the operation. I have a different project file for each day of Grand Chapter. I need to stop and restart the recording every 20-30 minutes to allow Mixcraft to write all of the WAV files to disk. I keep a different folder for each day of Grand Chapter.

By the time that all is said and done on Saturday night, I will have about 25 GBytes of WAV files on my hard drive. I try to backup the files to either a thumb drive or portable USB drive.

So when I get home, my job is to create MP3 files and copy them to a thumb drive. I used to write DVD disks but thumb drives are easier to deal with. Mixcraft has a handy function to mix down a select portion of the recording to a MP3 file. Sometimes, I will edit out long stretches of silence. Then I do some editing of the Excel file for accuracy.

And finally, I mail two thumb drives to Grand Secretary in Mass. Archive all of the files in case someone asks for a recording from way back when. I have full recordings going back to 2010 when I started doing the job for MA OES.

It’s Flying Time Again…

May 14, 2018

It’s time for our annual trip to Boston for MA Grand Chapter OES.

I did a few last minute errands this morning. Picked up shirts at the cleaners. Picked up Rx for Mary and went to the USPO to hold the mail.

So the main USPO in San Pedro is this beautiful old Art Deco building. So I took a picture of the lobby. It’s worth a look.

All of my computer gear is packed. My function at GC is to do the recording of the session. To do this I have an interface that patches into the sound system and connects to my laptop via USB interface.

Of course, I am bringing iPad, iPhone x2, iPad mini (for Paula). Plus all of the applicable chargers and cables.

I checked in at noon with Delta. Boarding passes loaded on phones. Got note from Delta that I have to check bags at LAX Term 2, then off to Term 3 due to construction. What a PITA.

I would have liked to do non stop both ways, but to do that on LAX-BOS would mean flight leaves to 0800. To early for us, so flight leaves at noon and change planes in Detroit. Arrive in BOS at about 10 pm EDT. We will be at our hotel by about midnight give or take.

So we expect to see many friends and relatives. Fly back on next Monday.

TTFN,

Joe

My Rules for Answering Calls

June 26, 2017

download (1)Is it just me or are the number of robo-calls greatly increasing. I think that they are. So, my little effort in my corner of the world, I will be implementing the following rules with respect to getting me to answer my phone:

  1. First and foremost, if my caller-id screen says “NO Caller-ID” I will not answer the call, EVER. Furthermore, if you manage to leave a message in my voice mail, I will not respond. Delete before listening. If you don’t have the common decency to let me know who you are, I don’t feel the urge to answer the phone or call you back. I pay AT&T a huge amount of money every month. It is for my convenience, not yours.
  2. If your phone number comes up in my caller-id screen but your name is not in my iPhone’s contact DB, I will not answer. Leave a message and I will get back to you. If you are pitching some vacation or money saving offer, don’t bother with the message, I won’t be calling back. I promise to add you name and number into my contact DB.
  3. Actually, rather than a voice mail, I would rather you send me a text message. Voice mail is so last century. If my dentist can figure out how to use text messaging, so can you.

Oh, by the way, we finally got a land line, but you can’t have the number. We got it just to allow us to reach our caregivers while we are traveling. The number is unlisted. If the phone rings, I don’t answer it.

I keep hearing that robo-callers are going direct to voice mail. I haven’t seen that yet. If that happens I might just let my voice mailbox fill up so noone can leave any voice mails.

One last thing. If you are calling me from an east coast area code (eg. 978 or 781) and you call me 8:00 AM east coast time, I won’t answer. I live in the LA area where there is a three hour time difference. Do the math. CVS was doing that to us for a while before with Rx refill reminders. CVS fixed the problem. They send SMS reminders now.

TTFN

Joe

Two Factor Authorization

May 5, 2017

I thought that today I would write a post about protecting our online data. Many online providers have adopted a security protocol called “Two Factor Authorization”. This is how it works. Up until recently, all one needed would be your username and your password to gain access to your account. You account could mean access to your email provider or perhaps your bank or maybe an E-Tail provider like Amazon.

Here’s how it works. When you attempt to login to your bank, the bank will ask for your username and password. So far so good. Then it will send a text message to your mobile phone. The text message will contain a 6 digit cypher that you will need to plug into your login screen. The cypher is good for only 10 minutes. So the reasoning goes that you need to have two pieces of information to gain access your account, a password and the code. Thus making unauthorized access less likely.

Recently Gmail (run by Google) adopted 2 factor authorization. I don’t know about other email providers. Protecting your email access is particularly important because if a hacker can get access to your email, he/she would be able to reset passwords to your other accounts. When you request a password reset, the provider just sends a “reset password” link to your email.

For this reason, protecting your primary email account is of utmost concern. So at this point in time, I know that Bank of America and Wells Fargo have implemented two factor authorization.

Click here for a Wikipedia article on the subject.

JPL Tour

November 19, 2015

EPSON MFP image

On Tuesday, We attended a tour of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena. This was a private tour that was arranged by our son Mike who works there. We had a group of about 20 people, most of whom were members of Mike’s 9SOPS unit at Vandenberg AFB.

The tour started at a small theater to view a video about JPL. The lab was started by a couple of grad students at Caltech who were doing research on rocket motors. Here’s the wiki article. Around the edge of the room were several models of JPL space craft including a 1/2 size model of the two spacecrafts Voyager which were  launched in 1977. Voyager 1 and 2 continue to operate today returning data from interstellar space.

 


From the auditorium, we headed to a small museum with more examples of JPL’s projects including Mars Exploration Rover Mission and other space craft for exploring the surface of Mars. We were given ample time to look at all of the models and take pictures. But we couldn’t stay all afternoon because there was another group scheduled right behind us.


 After we were done with the museum we hiked up to the building where the control center lives. They have a glassed in balcony where visitors can watch the business of managing spacecraft millions of miles from planet Earth. The center is manned 24/7/365. Here are a couple of pictures. By this point in the tour my knees were talking back to me.


The final stop in the tour was another glassed in balcony for visitors of one of the large clean room assembly areas where robotic space craft are built and readied for their journey to the outer reaches of outer space. On the far wall in the picture below are the mission symbols for all of the space craft that have come through this building.


It was a great tour. It was a lot easier than trying to go to the public open house held last month.