O Internet, Internet, wherefore art thou Internet?

For some strange and unidentifiable reason there are areas in our home where the Internet simply doesn’t reach via Wi-Fi. The main floor office is one such example. Our primary router (a Nighthawk X6) is in the basement (in the mechanical room) and feeds the entire house and yard quite well. However, that particular network simply doesn’t function inside the office. I picked up a Night Hawk X8 router and set it up in the center of the office thinking it could feed the office and work it’s way out the main and upstairs floors. Not so! The X8’s newly created Wi-Fi network was limited almost exclusively to the office! Even though it was overkill, I left that situation alone for awhile because it got the job done and met our needs. But I knew one day that something would interrupt the status quo.

All was well until I we needed Wi-Fi in the garage (for a computer and the Rainbird Sprinkler box). In hindsight I should have just run an ethernet cable to the garage when we built the house. But I hadn’t (maybe you still can!). There was still a way to potentially run an ethernet cable to the garage though.There’s a network jack in my bedroom which shares a common wall with the garage attic. I could set up a switch and then push a line into the attic and then down into the garage. Realistically it sounded like too much work.

Here’s what I tried first: I picked up a NETGEAR – PowerLINE Wi-Fi 1000 Access Point and Adapter. I plugged one end into an outlet near my router and plugged a LAN cable from my Night Hawk X6 into the Netgear Access Point. I went out to the garage and plugged the receiving end into an outlet. Sure enough! They found each other and linked.  However, the internet indicator was red, denoting a poor connection (I think it ended up being 3-4 mbps). Not great. I was lamenting my problem to a friend who suggested moving the Nighthawk X8 into my bedroom against the common bedroom/garage wall. Huh… that made a lot of sense. Sometimes you need another set of eyes om a problem.

I started the process by moving the Net Gear 1000 into the office. If I repurposed the Night Hawk X8 then my office would need its router replaced. And what do you know? The 1000 linked up just fine from an office plug and after doing some testing I concluded that little Powerline 1000 could easily handle all the internet requirements of the office. Then I moved the NightHawk X8 upstairs. I connected it to the LAN jack behind my bed and stashed the Router beneath my nightstand for the time being.

In this new location the Night Hawk X8 appears to serve the garage much better than anything else I’ve tried (and it also works throughout the upstairs and main floor, minus the office- something’s wrong with that office…). I’m ending up with with about 20mbps download speeds which are quite sufficient. And the signal level seems very strong, and this is, in some ways, just as important as the speed. I really think the relocated Wi-Fi network will be a huge help moving forward.

Long story short: I solved  the Wi-Fi internet dead zone in my garage by moving my Night Hawk X8 to a better location. I added a Powerline 1000 unit to the office to provide Wi-Fi there in the absence of the X8. This was a cost effective purchase and a great example of successfully relocating existing assets. At some point I need to set up the networks so they are, for all intents and purpose, one large mesh network. Anyone want to help me figure that out?

Conclusion; 8/10 – NETGEAR – PowerLINE Wi-Fi 1000 Access Point and Adapter
Works well to create an additional Wifi hotspot. Claims gigabit speeds but it doesn’t seem particularly fast to me. Only broadcasts on 2.4 Ghz frequency (right?).

VidAngel vs. Disney – Federal Appeals Court

This morning I watched the oral arguments made by both Vid Angel and Disney in the federal appeals court. It’s available online for anyone who’s interested (in fact I’ll embed here on my blog):

For anyone not familiar with Vid Angel or the current situation here is a quick summary: Vid Angel is a filtering company that allows customers to purchase movies and stream edited versions to their homes. Disney, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., 20th Century Fox Film Corporation and Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC are suing Vid Angel claiming that their filtering / streaming service violates copyright laws. Back in December of 2016 an injunction was filed against Vid Angel (and later upheld), effectively shutting down their service. Today was an opportunity for Vid Angel to argue against the injunction in court.

While I enjoy most of what the aforementioned entertainment companies offers (i.e. characters, parks, merchandise, etc) and understand the value of IP, I would really like to see the current injunction lifted. I think the issue of copyright here (especially in relation to the Family Movie Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is extremely complex and needs the full focus of the courts to be understood. In between now and when that court battle is actually decided I believe that Vid Angel should be allowed to operate. I strongly believe they provide a needed service, I don’t believe there is financial harm being done to the studios* and I believe the studios aren’t being fair to the end consumer.

* For those who think Vid Angel needs to get streaming licenses I make the counterpoint that what Vid Angel does is essentially a streaming version of Redbox (not illegal). However, Redbox has an agreement to delay some releases, which I think is an acceptable compromise. I will also point out that Vid Angel attempted to obtain streaming licenses and was rebuffed. I, and many others, would happily pay more for the ability to watch licensed edited movies, but if studios disallow filtering companies from obtaining those licenses then…

Based on the arguments I saw I would guess that the injunction will stay in place, in some form or another. As I already mentioned the law on copyright is difficult to interpret, (and also of note much of it was created prior to digital streaming technology). What makes me the most upset is that movie studios pretend that they are not violating our right to censor content we have purchased. It’s like throwing someone in a trunk, dumping the trunk in a lake and telling the person in the trunk they “are free to do whatever they want.” I want, no I have, the right to censor what I watch. Vid Angel provides the technology to enable that right to be realized and I genuinely hope the courts can see that there’s no viable alternative.

Vid Angel just announced there’s some “Good News” coming June 13th, at 7pm. Fingers crossed, but I’m guessing it won’t be anything too dramatic.

BONUS: Sony Pictures recently announced that they are offering cleaner version of some their movies. Predictably some directors objected- “directors” like Seth Rogen. Leave it to people in Hollywood to try force their morally bankruptcy perspective on everyone. Thanks for being  a dick, Seth.  If Hollywood wants to make crass garage that’s their right. If I want to edit their crass garbage that’s my right. At least Sony recognizes not everyone watching movies is a degenerate (exaggerated for effect, obviously). FYI:  anyone who says “Just don’t watch those movies” absolutely misses the point.

Rainbird ESP-Me Wifi Sprinkler Control – Mini Review

I have been visiting with a friend who’s doing a major yard overhaul. One change he’s planning to make is to move his sprinkler system to a wireless setup so that watering can be controlled via a phone application. That sounded pretty good to me so I did some research to determine what I’d need to make a similar migration.

It turns out that I didn’t need much! I have Rainbird ESP-Me controller that was installed a couple of years ago when we put in our yard. I noticed that Rainbird offered a wireless module for this controller, however my particular unit was not compatible, due to it’s age. At first I priced out a new controller with the wifi module, but eventually I discovered that I only needed a new control panel (not the actual box with the station controllers).

A quick google search led me to YardOutlet.com. They offered a bundle package with the control panel and wifi module for about $130 with free shipping. They are located in Ogden Utah which seemed like a nice plus. I ordered Monday and, incredibly, I had my package on Tuesday. Whaaat? Everything came well packed and as advertised. Well done, Yard Outlet!

Replacing the panel was incredibly simple. All you have to do is unplug the harness, pop off the old control panel, put on the new one and plug it back in (I think I spent about a minute doing this). I reprogrammed my sprinklers from the panel and then set about linking the sprinkler controller with the Rainbird App.

Initially I had a little difficulty getting things to connect properly. I think part of that, in my case, was because the wifi in my garage is terrible (something I am working on fixing today). The Rainbird wifi module initially creates its own hotspot  and then, from the app, you move the module to your home network. Obviously at that point your phone needs to switch networks too and mine hadn’t which is probably another reason I got the error below. After a few tries everything seemed to be working and I was ready to try out the app.

After perusing the app my impressions are quite positive. It gives you all the same accessibility as the physical control panel. After you make adjustments you save them and the new program is written to your control box. Everything is fairly intuitive and you can even opt to have the app make watering adjustments based on the weather. The app control worked well on my wifi networks and via my cellular service (one thing to note- you can’t switch from a wifi network to LTE while you run the the Rainbird application- you have to close and restart the app for it to work properly).

Below is a quick demonstration of starting and stopping the sprinklers via the Rainbird application (complete with a silly kid in the background). Being able to control the sprinkler zones from my phone will make it infinitely easier to do testing and make repairs.

Overall, I think this is a very solid wifi sprinkler control set up, especially give how inexpensive it is. I’d give it my recommendation.

Overall: 8.5/10

BONUS: A friend pointed out that this system may be eligible for a rebate. It looks like by adding a rain sensor I could get up to 50% back for my purchase. I might just do that…

http://rebates.cuwcd.com/
https://www.rainbird.com/documents/turf/bro_ESP-Me_WiFi_en.pdf

BONUS 2: The RainBird app spends quite awhile getting the schedule and setting information when each connects to the sprinkler box. Originally I had thought this was because I had connected the unit to to a network with very low signal strength. I rearranged things and then connected the ESP-Me to a much better network. Sadly, the app’s load time was the same. I’m docking a half point for that.

Bose QuietControl 3.0 Mini Review

The absence of the earphone jack on my new iPhone 7 has been troublesome. For whatever reason I have earphones / headphones in various parts of the house and frequently switch between them. In lieu of buying 6 “lightning to 3.5mm jack” adapters I decided to try and find a pair of good Bluetooth headphones. I was sick of cords anyway so I figured this would the perfect opportunity for a change.

I tried a couple less expensive brands like this set from Senso. The drivers in the Senso (and comparable $30 models) was miserably underpowered. Still, they sounded okay and they fit on my ears quite well. The deal breaker was that they lost their connection with the phone when I went outside (intermittently, but frequently).

Eventually, almost in desperation, I picked up a set of the Bose QuietControl 3.0 ear buds. I have a couple other pairs of Bose headphones that I really like so I figured I had nothing to lose. Well, except some money- the QuietControls are pricey, running around $300. To their credit, they have a profusion of features, some not present in other Bluetooth models.

For starters the battery is situated in a comfortable neck band, as opposed to being in the actual ear piece. In addition to increasing the battery life this makes the portion that sits in your ear much more comfortable (the earpiece also has Bose’s “stay hear” fitting which is very effective). The on and off button is situated in this neck band. Syncing with your device is very simple and pressing the button multiple times lets’s you cycle through up to three connected devices (I use it with my phone and laptop). In my opinion the best feature is the noise cancelling technology. While not perfect, it’s effective enough at muting background noises that I was able to mow the lawn while listening to an audio book. There are several levels of noise-cancelling- I think I would have opted for on/off as cycling through 10 levels (or whatever) is cumbersome. In addition to noise cancelling controls, there are the standard volume and pause buttons as well as a microphone for calls.

Audio quality is excellent. Compared to the other models I used the QuietComfort’s sound is deep and full of detail (excellent base, considering this is really a set of ear buds). Drop out is minimal and I have used the headphones mowing, biking, running and shopping with very few problems.

The QuietComforts are not perfect, by an means. Here are my gripes:

  • When you turn your head left and right sometimes the earphones can actually get pulled out.
  • The neck band will periodically rotate and become uncomfortable (it’s very easy to readjust it).
  • When the noise cancelling feature is turned down the headphones almost seem to amplify ambient sounds and there is a strong “white noise’ present in the phones.
  • Even the QC’s Bluetooth occasionally cuts out.
  • A little more expensive that I think they should be.
  • The built in microphone seems to do a poor job filtering out background sound.

And here’s what I like:

  • Battery life is very solid and the charge quickly.
  • Neck band is comfortable and allows for smaller more comfortable ear buds.
  • Noise cancelling feature is a welcome benefit.
  • Audio quality is excellent.
  • Good solid construction.
  • Pairing is effective and the connection is generally very solid.

With all that being said it’s probably not clear where I stand on the QuietComfort 3.0 line. You might even be thinking that I don’t like them all that much. But such is not the case. Despite a few limitations (negative quirks) these have become my go-to headphones. I typically have them on all day and they have literally replaced every other set that I own. I would recommend them to anyone who’d looking for a pair of solid Bluetooth ear buds and who’s willing to settle for very good, but not great.

Overall Initial Impression Score: 7.5/10

I’ll follow this us with a long term usability score  after I’ve used the headphones for a few months.

 

 

Tokyo Falls, Nori Rises (Sushi Adventures)

Once upon a time the IT team at BHQ went out to lunch (a lunch to which I was inexplicably invited). One of the programmers suggested a sushi place called Tokyo, a little dive on Main Street in Lehi. It was the best sushi I’d ever eaten. In the years since that first visit I have been to Tokyo dozens of times and, with very few exceptions, the flavors and textures impressed me every time.

Imagine my surprise when I went there a few weeks ago and discovered a series of strange exterior banners promising exciting new menu options. Inside I discovered a new menu with some interesting additions such as ramen and sushi burritos. Instinctively I could feel something was wrong but I resisted the impulse to run and decided to have lunch. I got a few of my favorite rolls, some nigiri and then decided to get a sushi burrito as I had been recently craving just such a thing (weird, but absolutely true). Fran decided to try out the Ramen. When the waitress came over and asked if everything was okay we nodded our heads like morons. I wish I’d had the balls to say, “No, it’s not okay…”

While I wasn’t courageous enough to say anything on the spot I’ll say it here, online (because everyone is tough online). Call me a sushi snob if you want… The knife work on the nigiri was sloppy and each fell apart as it was lifted.The rolls were careless, the flavors diminished. This sushi burrito was barely edible (in fact I ended up just throwing half of it away). What I should have said was “This food is not up to the previous standard. This new stuff is mediocre. What happened?” I wasn’t at Tokyo to eat trendy sushi treats- I wanted the best damn sushi ever, like before (I know, I got the sushi burrito so some of this is definitely on me). By no means am I suggesting anything akin to a boycott – the sushi was still okay. But I’m not after okay. I’m after exceptional.

My wife, heartbroken by the loss of our good friend, Mr. “great sushi” Tokyo, endeavored to find a suitable replacement. Her efforts led to a new sushi bar in American Fork called Nori. We gave it a try and came away pretty impressed. The rolls are well constructed with good texture, ingredient ratios and flavor. The nigiri was very good in all respects (also not pictured was some excellent miso soup). The setting is very pleasant-  modern, yet traditional. While it’s not quite as good as what Tokyo was, it’s fantastic sushi and it will be my new go-to sushi stop for the foreseeable future.

I’m fairly certain I’ve tried every sushi establishment in Utah County at this point but please feel free to make any recommendations that some to mind- maybe there’s something I’ve missed.

Empire “Building”

I set the ball rolling years ago. “We’ll need to buy a building eventually,” I had said, almost absentmindedly. It seemed like it was forever away.

A few days into May it was time to tackle that very difficult question: How do we address our long-term need for space? With our lease expiration looming about a year off, we needed to decide if we wanted to continue leasing, buy an existing building or build something new. The math was fairly simple: If we were going to be around for another ten years then owning a building was the right financial call. Many businesses don’t realize that the amount they are paying in rent may be equal to (or even more than) a monthly payment on a mortgage, assuming a down payment is viable.

After looking around, the BHQ team concluded there wasn’t really an existing structure that was suitable for our needs (at least not something cost effective). The most logical way to proceed was to buy land and build. After conversations with numerous builders an alluring Pleasant Grove project presented itself. The BHQ team felt that it would meet our needs and then some. With a larger subdivided structure we could potentially even lease out some of our unused space allowing us to subsidize our building payments. Thus began our negotiations….

The proposed building site in Pleasant Grove

At first things didn’t go smoothly. The upfront costs were onerous and the timeline was too hurried. At one point we even decided to back off completely. Part of me was relived. Even though I was the one that had pushed for building ownership in the past, I freely admit that I became one of the partners that felt leery at the prospect of owning a building and the financial obligations it brought. I felt that renting, while not as generous to our asset sheet, gave us more flexibility and, short-term, more on-hand cash. However, a new offer that everyone one felt good about was presented. My position was swayed and we decided to move forward with the project. Since the papers are now signed and construction has begun I think it’s safe to announce that BHQ is moving to PG in 2018.

Our 36,000 square foot complex  (foot print size) will consist of six units like the one pictured here (this building was constructed by the same builder we are using).

I’m pretty excited about the new building. We’ll build it to suit our ever expanding needs and we should have plenty of room for the foreseeable future. It’s also an opportunity for us to venture into the world of commercial real estate rental. There’s still a lot of work left to do, obviously, but I believe this was the right call and it will be worth the effort. More to come!

 

 

Generation Toy J4ZZ (Jazz the 991 Porsche)

Jazz and I go way back. While I’m not a huge fan of the music, I absolutely the 935 Porsche Transformer from the 1984 cartoon series. In addition to be being a robot stud he was one of my favorite cars. I’m always a little slow on the uptake so I missed the release info for the Generation Toy J4ZZ figure. I finally got around to picking on up last month and I have to say it’s pretty amazing.

The box’s slipcover features some very nice artwork. Inside you’ll find the figure, a blaster and some instructions.

The car looks exceptional. They opted for a pearl white finish which looks good but might not have been the perfect choice. The detailing and fitment are excellent and the molding and paint are nice as well (there is one paint spot that’s an issue on my car and the side view mirrors need to be cleaned up a little). This particular model has a Porsche 991 front and a [more or less] 991 rear. That’s more exciting for me than a 935 since I’ve actually own a 991 style Porsche.

This is a 991 Martini Porsche and I’m certain the Generation Toy J4ZZ is modeled after this car (or one similar to it).

As far as transformation goes: One look under the chassis and it’s clear there’s a lot going on. J4ZZ comes with instructions, but it was honestly easier to stop using them and figure out the transformation on my own. Most of it is quite intuitive, although there are some small flaps here and there that I missed the first time around. This is definitely not like the toys you played with as a kid!

The quality on J4ZZ is comparable to other Masterpiece releases that I have (but to clarify- this is not a Masterpiece release).I can’t even fathom the amount of engineering that went into this project. I am blown away by how good he looks in car and robot mode. Everything is properly jointed and you can easily achieve some hero-caliber stances. I think this is an easy recommendation. If you love Jazz and you’re okay with it not being period-correct piece I’d pick one up ASAP.

Rating: 9/10

Knife Addiction – Marketing Level VI

I have to hand it to the boys and girls at Blade HQ- this is a good solid marketing campaign. They have identified something that affects everyone: addiction. They have removed a bit of negativity surrounding “addiction” and their message is “There’s no cure so enjoy it!.” This allows the victim the simple, guiltless, pleasure of indulgence. In BladeHQ’s world there are no consequences. I’m okay with that. Audience connection engaged.

The video is well executed in terms of writing, casting / acting and videography. It’s clear Blade HQ puts a lot of effort into their marketing strategies and I really hope this pays off for them- they deserve it!

Observer: Cam, you’re writing about your company is a way that strikes me as sort of… odd.
Cam: Oh am I? My company, you say? Nope. I’m just a guy who loves knives giving credit where credit is due. I had zero to to with this campaign and it impresses me. Very excited to see how it plays out.