Saturday, June 16, 2018

Cord Cutting

A few weeks ago, my kids killed our TV. I think it was a dog toy to the middle of the screen, perhaps followed by a large dog. After about 3 days of searching for a replacement, I found this great TV on Amazon. 50" for less than $400. I bought it.


Then disaster struck. Our cable bill arrived with a new price increase to $233 a month. Thanks Spectrum. I could buy a new 50" TV every two months, forever for less than the price of cable. Hmm. That is some bad math. I canceled everything but the internet which was a $178 savings.

But what to do about this brand new TV? Well, most of the time our TV is used for our PS4 and all of the games and videos we have for that. My wife, Kitty hated that answer. As for other movies, we already had Netflix. $54 for internet, plus $11.99 for Netflix. And then I remembered that the PS4 also could show Amazon Prime Videos which was another couple of bucks. Now, I had two different sources of movies and was still saving over well over $100.

Click here to try out Amazon Prime. Try Prime Discounted Monthly Offering

Kitty pointed out that we didn't have local TV channels. What if the schools closed? What if there was bad weather and we didn't know? Ok. I was about to order an antenna and digital converter from Amazon, when someone told me about CBS All Access. It will show your local affiliate's programming, including the news.

Click here to try CBS (one month free): Prime Members Start Your Free Trial of CBS All Access with Prime Video Channels

I wish I could tell you that saving money was my Prime (see what I did there?) motivation, but what I was actually thinking about was CBS's new Star Trek show. My daughter was pleased that we could also watch Young Sheldon and Big Bang Theory. We loved all three shows.

This was getting pricey, I figured I might as well go all the way. I asked Kitty what TV show she'd miss from cable. She answered, "Golden Girls." A quick search showed me that it was available on Hulu. Another monthly charge, but still under the price of cable.

Another problem entered the mix. My wife asked about the TV in the bedroom. How would that work? How would I fix that? I had a refund coming to me from Google for a broken phone, so I used that to purchase a Google Home Mini and a Chromecast. Why not? If I was going to cut the cord, I wanted to make sure everything "just worked". A laptop or a phone could control the Chromecast in the bedroom and the PS4 in the living room would do everything else. The Home Mini was just bonus.

Service or Item Price
Netflix $11.99
Hulu 7.99
Amazon Prime Video 10.99
CBS 5.99
Google Home 39.00
Chromecast 35.00
Cable54.99
Total$165.95

My figures ignore the cost of a new TV because I had already bought it. It also ignores the fact that I had Netflix and Amazon Prime from the get-go. Two pros and one con are tabled, so to speak. The Home and Chromecast were purchased with found money as I used a refund credit for them. As an added bonus, Amazon Prime also has a music selection which had gone unused to this point. Kitty can control that from her laptop and display it on the bedroom TV. One more feature go on the positive side of the list, which is free benefit of Prime.

Click to try Amazon Prime Music: Try Amazon Music Unlimited Free Trial

For less than $175, I managed to get the home A/V system I always wanted and I am now using almost every feature of every service. My monthly cost is a mere $91, down from $230+.

Kindle again

I need a new Kindle. This might be the day, they are on sale on Amazon for $39.00. This hardy little tab has lasted many years but is starting to feel a little rough around the edges. It has been well used and abused.

Time to take Amazon up on a good deal.


Shop Amazon Devices - Save $10 on the Fire 7 Tablet

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Ubuntu Reinstall on Chromebook

There are many guides to installing Linux on a Chromebook. What I don't see are too many guides on what needs to be done afterwards. Using Crouton gives a very basic experience with Ubuntu, so a lot of things need tweaking.

One step that I often forget is switching to Dev Mode on a Chromebook can require a restart. Also, walking through the Ubuntu install also requires a restart. You can combo these together or do them one at a time. It doesn't really matter. What does matter is the restart option in Ubuntu will turn off your Chromebook. Think ahead.

I find the best way to get software easily is the Software Center. I know it can be buggy and odd, but it is a good place to start. Under the standard install of Ubuntu via Crouton, it isn't there and the terminal is the best option. First things first, make sure your install is up to date:

sudo apt-get update

This should only take a few seconds. Now you can get the software center:

sudo apt-get install software-center

The Software Center takes much longer to download and install. For whatever reason, sometimes the Software Center doesn't work. Simply repeat the command:

sudo apt-get update

The next thing I hit is a proper browser. NetSurf is 3 years old and kind of funky. It works fine in a pinch but doesn't offer a lot of features. I like Chromium.

A good word processor is a must and I am a fan of Libre Write. Write isn't the only game in town, you could simply use Google Docs, Abiword or WPS Writer. WPS Writer has the look and feel of MS Word, Abiword is a stripped down word processor which is easy to use and distraction free.

Stay tuned for more ideas of how to extend your Chromebook's usefulness.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Using GIMP to Resize Photos to a Specific Size

This afternoon I am editing photos for a website. I would like to take some images from 4992x4000 down to exactly 620 px across. I will be using Gimp and a little math to make this happen in seven steps.

First things first, I could do the math in my head, but I want to make this a step by step process. The second thing is, unpwnd doesn't require a specific size so the images in this walkthru will not be 620 px. That is not lost on me, I happen to Blogger as my platform and it has very different tools from Wordpress.

Step one. Open the image.
Step two. Click on Set Image Canvas Size. The dialog box will open and show that the image is currently 4992x4000. That is nothing like 620 px across.
Step three. I am going to adjust the width and the height. For the width, I need to lose those to extra pixels, it is so small no one will notice. So width becomes 2992-2=2990.

Height is another story. I am going to take away a multiple of 620. I decided that I would go with 620 times 2, so what I end up with is 2760. That is 4000-1240=2760.

Before I hit resize, I clicked the Center button. It just so happens that my subjects are dead center and this works. If it did not, I could have adjusted this manually.
Step four. I want to point out that I have been working with Canvas Size and not Image Size. Essentially, I am cropping the image to a particular size based on some math rather than an eye for photographic composition. Actual photographers have a great eye for composition and would not use this method.

Anyway, I think I can trim a little more of the edges and when I do that, I want my height and width to be an exact multiple of 620. I take the width of 2990 and divide by 620 which gives me 4.822 and some change. I do the same for the height which gives my 4.451 and change.

Now for a trick. I am going to take four away from each number leaving 0.822 and 0.451. Both of these numbers need to multiplied by 620. 620 is the only number I know for this process, which is why it keeps popping up. The results are 510 and 280.

2990-510 is 2480 and 2760-280 is also 2480.  2480 divided by 620 is 4.

Again, I am using the center bottom so I don't clip away my subjects. Also, this could a manual process.
Step five. Scale the image. I could do this part 2 ways. I picked the easy way: I scaled the image to 620. I could have also used the drop down box to select percent and typed in 25. There is no difference.
Step six. This is the result, an image that appears way too small. But not really, GIMP didn't change the scale of the display and the image is actually much bigger.
 Step seven. I set my view to 1:1. Looks good.
While all of this seems labor intensive, it is. But only once. Changes are your camera always outputs the same size image so you can save this as a macro making the process automatic.

And here is the final output at 620 px.

Neat, eh?

Monday, May 28, 2018

Security Update

I've been reviewing my websites for security issues and noticed my robot.txt fell off and the https settings were wrong. Both have been fixed. I'm adding more content this week and hope that I can appeal to a greater readership.

To that end, I will be reviewing software and apps that pull in blogs.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Clamshell iBook Hard Drive Replacement Alternative

My aging Blue iBook is suffering from a lack of space. This machine shipped with a 10 GB hard drive way back in 1999. Since I launched theseoldgames.com, the need for installation space has gone up noticeably.

Ifixit.com has wonderfully detailed instructions for repair of a variety of consumer products, including the iBook. They are my "go to" site for most repair projects. However, replacing the iBook drive has 10 sections, 36 steps and no time listed for the upgrade. It is also marked difficult. Since I trust them, I believe that this is within my skill range, but will exceed my patience for the task.

When I upgraded my old computers hard drive the task took all of an hour. This is a much bugger project, one I am not convinced that I ready to start.

I had been using a USB thumb drive as an alternative to upgrading the drive, but having a little dongle sticking out the side of the computer was always a recipe for disaster. What if I broke the one and only USB port?

Well, that is where the SanDisk Cruzer Fit USB drive comes in. It's a tiny USB drive with more than adequate storage. This 32 GB drive was less than $20.00, on Amazon. Now you can get several of them for a little less than $35.00.

The SanDisk Cruzer would not be my first pick because I am clumsy and forgetful. Under normal circumstances, I would lose this thing in less than a day. However, once it is plugged into the iBook, it's sleek, small form is perfect for this machine. As you can see in the next picture, the SanDisk Cruzer doesn't extend past the edge of the case.

Perfect! Drive problem solved, no particular downsides other than loosing the use of the USB. Aside from a floppy drive and Wacom Table, I have nothing that uses that port. To be honest, I won't need to use either one for this laptop.

One caveat when plugging any drive into a OS 9 Mac - Sometimes the Mac will want to initialize the disk into a flavor or form it can use. Most modern machines do not have this problem, so plugging the drive into the Mac first, formatting if needed, then putting information on it using a different machine is the route to go.

In a perfect world I'd upgrade the hard drive, but this solution is so handy compared to the real fix, I'm gonna run with it.

Pros: Cheap and easy.
Cons: Can't boot from USB. Utilizes the only USB port on the machine.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Fraser Cain Experiment

Screen Cap from Universe Today.
Fraser Cain and the Universe Today are offering a free ebook, 101 Astronomical Events in 2017 by David Dickinson. If you are a reader on Universe Today, you are likely very familiar with Mr. Dickinson's work.

According to Mr. Cain this is a test:

"Will you download and actually use it? If so, then expect us to release a new edition every year."

I'd personally love that. Go check out the Universe Today website and enjoy a free ebook. If you like it, don't forget to share with your friends, families and local astronomy clubs. Double down and reshare Mr. Cain's post while you are at it.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the other quality projects Mr. Cain is involved in. Try out Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay and Fraser Cain for a week dose of astronomy. The Bad Astronomy, Universe Today forums have moved to CosmoQuest.com and continues to be an active and vibrant community. And of course, CosmoQuest.org is still running high quality, citizen science experiments.

Editor's note - there is no link directly to the book from unpwnd.com. There is a choice of pdf or epub plus Mr. Cain is running this as an experiment. Unpwnd loves the high quality productions of Mr. Cain, Universe Today and Cosmoquest and would like to see him receive as much traffic as possible for future reference.