Sunday, March 17, 2013

CenturyLink Prism

History: I've had CentruyLink DSL for a  few years.  Until recently, the service had a lot of intermittent outages, most of which could be fixed by a telephone call and asking them to "rebuild my profile".

They started offering Prism TV about a year ago.  I've received a lot of calls and mailings promoting the service.  I didn't sign up primarily because of the DSL outages.  I also had a concern about there only being two hi-def channels available at a time.

On one of the recent calls, the representative gave a "final" monthly cost that would save me about $60 over what I am paying for combined DirecTV and CentruyLink services.  That with other perks, taken together, finally convinced me to make the change.

Prism advantages vs. the DirecTV that I had:
- Package saves $60/month
- "Whole Home" DVR
- Smaller, better looking boxes
- Easier/cleaner to connect; one cable (Cat5) vs. four (2 coax, one Cat5, one       telephone)
- Service during rainstorms
- Quicker channel changes
- Internet speed increase if not watching TV (20 Mbps vs. 10)
- A much better router
- One bill to pay (vs. two)
- $100 rebate
- $50 off first month

Even if DirecTV could match the cost and aesthetics issues, there is nothing they can do about internet speed and simplicity advantages.

3/18/2013:  Two days after installation, I am very pleased with the new Prism system. The only way I can imagine being disappointed is if there is significant service interruption or billing problems.  I will continue to add followup comments as time goes by.

3/20/2013:  Several hours after the above post, we began to see "freezing".  This would last from several seconds to a minute or so at a time, and would repeat at random but frequent intervals.  I called, the tech said she could not see any problem on the line or in the router, so would send a tech out the next day (yesterday).  After the call, speedtest.net showed that I was getting 20mbps down during a TV freeze.  Power cycling the router seemed to fix the problem for 45 minutes to an hour at a time.

A very helpful tech (Carlos), came out yesterday and spent several hours here.  We actually were not having real problems yesterday before he got here, but "fortunately" we did see them while he was here.  Also, we began to see crazy fluctuations in reported download speeds using speedtest.net and the CenturyLink speed test site.  He tried a number of fixes.  First, he replaced the router.  The original router showed a lot of errors, and by the s/n he could tell that it was a refurbished unit.  Next, he checked the wiring at the NID and  made new connections - the guy who ran the temporary "on top of the ground" cable from the box several hundred feet away had tightened the connector nuts so much that the wires were flattened almost to the breaking point.  We still saw speed and picture issues, so Carlos then changed the ports in the DSLAM down the street.

Items of note:
- My router is for ADSL and uses two pair.  I need an ADSL router because of the distance to the DSLAM (3000 ft.).  The VDSL router uses only one pair in neighborhoods where people are very close to the DSLAMs.  They have a newer "combination" router that replaces both, and may be worth a try.

- I am almost at the maximum distance for 2 hi-def streams.  This makes me wonder how many other people around here will get Prism, as there are only a few closer to the DSLAM than I am.

- The installer said that the router should be plugged directly into the wall, not into my UPS to avoid "voltage changes".  I asked Carlos about this and he confirmed that is what they have been told, but agrees that it makes little sense.  Once things are stable, I will change to UPS power, although I now wish I had one with sine wave output.

3/21/2013:  After yesterdays comments, I noticed we could not pause or rewind live TV.  I called, and the agent was at first going to schedule a tech to come out, but then asked me to power cycle the router, and she then remotely rebooted the DVR and other boxes.  That fixed the recording problem, but we still saw a few short duration freezes yesterday afternoon on HGTV.  Looking at the guide, adjacent channels were not frozen.  The problem went away and has not returned yet.  Internet speed is very good (20mbps+)

5/11/2014:  I should have been paying more attention to the interest in this blog.  Over the last six months I've been consistently getting speeds of 25 Mb/s down and 1 Mb/s up even while watching one HD channel.  TV usage sometimes seems to have more of an affect on internet speed than at others.  Speedtest.net just said 13 Mb/s down, 1 Mb/s up while watching two HD channels and recording one more. (Yes, I can have three simultaneous HD streams with no problem, despite what I was initially told.)  I do still miss DirecTV's remote and user interface.  In lots of ways it just seemed "easier" to do things with DirecTV.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Google Drive when dual boot

I routinely boot Win 7 from at least two drives, and ran into a problem with Google Drive refusing to sync, saying the Google Drive folder was missing.  My folder is on a "data" drive, separate from the OS drives.  A search revealed others with this issue. None of their solutions worked for me, but did lead me to a solution:

In "OS1", unplug the network cable and delete all files from the Google Drive folder.  (will get a message saying files have been moved to Trash at drive.google.com, but this obviously cannot be true at this point)

Boot "OS2", attempt to use the Google Drive folder - will not work, but will show disconnect option.  Disconnect, then sign in, go to advanced setup, and specify the same (empty) Google Drive folder used by "OS1" (key: this will NOT be allowed unless the folder is empty).

Choose "start sync".  Files will download & folder will get Google Drive icon.

Google Drive will now function in both "OS1" and "OS2" using the same folder.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Win 7 clean install from upgrade disc

Install will say product key is not valid, but can <Esc> and install will complete.

Activation will fail ("the software licensing service determined that this specified Product Key can only be used for upgrading, not for clean installations") until do the following:

regedit HKLM>software>microsoft>windows>current version>setup>OOBE MediaBootInstall change from 1 to 0

from elevated prompt >slmgr.vbs -rearm

Activation will then complete normally.  (The above also resets to "30 days to activate")

In case anyone sees this and wonders, I have several full versions of XP which are no longer in use on any system.  It simply would have been a waste of time to install one of these in order to then "upgrade" to Win 7

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Computer Build Notes

Hyper 212 Plus installation

Everyone has their own way of applying thermal paste.  For this cooler I used a razor blade to spread a very thin layer and fill in the grooves to give a uniform base.  I then used the razor to add very thin lines of paste on the heat pipes, and twisted the cooler to seat it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Google Chrome

revised 3/6/13

I have come to rely on bookmarks and open tabs.  I have been baking up my bookmarks for some time, both as part of routine disk images and as a separate procedure when it seems appropriate. I have felt this requirement partially because I am still unclear on sync issues which could mess up my bookmarks.

Tabs
Although previously never a problem, for an unknown reason Chrome recently “lost” about 20 open tabs, which I could not get back using Ctrl+Shift+T.  It appears I am not alone in this experience.

What I should have done (determined by looking at how the files behave):  closed Chrome, copied Last Session and renamed to Current Session.  Then when I reopened Chrome I would at least have had the tabs as they existed at the beginning of the problem session.

The way it seems to work:
-         when open a session, what was Current Session becomes Last Session
-         then when make the first change to tabs, what was Curent Tabs becomes Last Tabs

Bookmarks
I had not used by netbook in several weeks and was afraid that its "old" bookmarks would replace the current ones from my G1 pc.  I was out of town and therefore unable to recover from a problem, so before opening Chrome on the netbook, I renamed Bookmarks and Bookmarks.bak.  This worked as expected, new files were created and synced.  Everything may have been fine if I had not done this, but I'm not sure.

The way it seems to work:
-       when change a bookmark, Bookmarks file is changed
-    Bookmarks.bak file is updated when ?????????????????

(3/5/13) Bookmarks sync is a little flakey.  Last night I had added bookmarks and renamed a folder.  I then booted from a different drive.  The added bookmarks were there, but the folder was not renamed.  After booting this morning, the new folder name was there.  Question: would the folder name have changed if I had left the system on overnight?  I also should have looked at the folder name last night using another PC.

Flash (2/22/13)
Was getting Adobe Flash Player update notification upon boot, but Google and Adobe both say "updates for Adobe Flash Player are automatically included in Chrome system updates".  After an update, about:plugins (link doesn't work) and adobe.com both show my installed version number (11.6.602.171) to be higher than the latest Player version listed in the table on the above Adobe web page (11.6.602.167).  It is also interesting that add/remove programs shows version 11.1.102.55, which is not listed in about:plugins.

Extensions (2/23/13)
Chrome version 25 automatically disabled AVG Safe Search and provided this explanation

Java (3/6/13)
I disabled Java a couple of months ago due to the various security warnings.  This has caused no problems, so I should probably go ahead and uninstall it from all boot partitions (old Version 6 Update 37 is currently installed).  Note Java is not installed on B2 (Ethel's), B3 (HTPC), or NB205 (Win 8 install)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wi-Fi router/access point settings

Confusion arises when looking at older router (Linksys WRT54G) which has WPA only.

The wireless security setup page states:
“WPA Pre-Shared Key: There are two encryption options for WPA Pre-Shared Key, TKIP and AES. TKIP stands for Temporal Key Integrity Protocol. TKIP utilizes a stronger encrytption method and incorporates Message Integrity Code (MIC) to provide protection against hackers. AES stands for Advanced Encryption System, which utilizes a symmetric 128-Bit block data encryption.” (No further information is given.)
They certainly appear to be recommending TKIP over AES. This leads me to believe that the “AES” used by this router is different than the 256 bit AES-CCMP used by WPA2 capable routers.
CCMP: Counter Mode with Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol
PSK: Pre Shared Key   home/small office.  No authentication server for "handshake".  Note the strength of the passphrase is extremely important, but it is NOT used to encrypt the traffic.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Blu-ray to NAS

Revised June 2, 2012


I've had a lot to learn getting music and video files stored on and playable from my network.
  • After several months I finally realized the players I've been using were not capable of DTS-HD Master Audio or of multi-channel PCM.  I was looking at the WDTV Live Plus forum to see if my WDTV supports 7.1, and I found that it doesn't support DTS-HDMA. I was getting up to 6.1 DTS, but not lossless Master Audio, and no 7.1.  This prompted me to give MPC-HT another try. After quite a bit of setup configuration, I now see DTS-HD Mstr on my receiver 
  • Full Disk / ISO copy assures that will have useable file(s). Also any extras that may someday want to see.  Lacking a good ISO copy, ISTM could copy undamaged chapters from 2 discs and combine into single movie file
  • TSMuxeR works much faster when using unencrypted source (incl mounted .iso) than when using Passkey source
  • Beware if 1st stream file in a playlist has no audio.  TSMuxeR and DVDFab output may have no audio at all!
  • It's entirely possible to bypass ISO creation and TSMuxeR, and feed DVDFab output directly to Handbrake for MKV creation
  • Handbrake will not "passthru" THD or LPCM.  For THD, use mkvmerge to combine HB video with audio track from .m2ts.  For LPCM, let HB encode to "Flac (ffmpeg)" (mkvmerge does not recognize LPCM tracks)
  • LAV Audio Decoder used by MPC-HT does not bitstream (i.e. pass-through) LPCM (from .m2ts file) or FLAC.  The output codec for both is PCM (ISTM there should be zero quality loss)
  • If Sound > Realtek HDMI Output > Configure is set to 7.1, 5.1 PCM output will go to the back rather than the side speakers!  The workaround for this bug is to configure as 5.1 unless 7.1 is needed for a (rare) 7.1 PCM output (3:10 to Yuma is my only example).  This brings up several things of interest (applies to both PCs):
    • With PC Sound configured to 7.1, RX-V867 shows 3/4/0.1 for 5.1 or 7.1 PCM
    • The Realtek 5.1 speaker configuration incorrectly shows the speaker icons in the back, 7.1 shows all properly. The 5.1 speaker configuration test properly outputs to the side speakers
    • Perhaps some future Realtek driver update will properly handle the situation of 7.1 speaker setup with 5.1 PCM source.
    • An alternative to all of this would be to convert any 7.1 LPCM to a format that could be bitstreamed.  However Handbrake has a maximum "6 Channel Discrete" Mixdown option for AC3 (ffmpeg).
  • MPC-HC installation notes (May 21,2012):  I installed MPC-HC on my recent HTPC build, which will become the primary way I watch .mkv movies.  Up until now, I have been using my "main" PC, connected to the receiver with HDMI over Cat5e.  MPC-HC installaton is not "hard" once understood, but can be extremely confusing because most people including myself do not use it as a completely "stand alone" program, and there are many different possible configurations.  The following is what I have done on both PCs.
    • Download and install LAV filters (curent now is LAVFilters-0.50.5.exe)  I choose x64 files only, but for some reason the installation went to the Program Files (x86) directory on the HTPC only (maybe I had specified on the other PC)
    • Download dtsdecoderdll.dll and place it in the LAV Filters\x64 directory.  I had a version of this file as part of the ArcSoft TotalMedia Extreme software that came with my Hauppauge HD-DVR.  That version is probably fine, but I got the later version anyway.
    • Download and install MPC-HC (64bit).  I unchecked "translations" during install.
      • on first run, get message "Please download and install the latest DirectX runtime"
    • Download and run dxwebsetup.exe (latest is v.9.29.1974 4/18/2011)
      • This appears to install a lot of "old" files, but search shows that this is correct and is indeed needed by MPC-HC.  It is interesting that the install only took a few minutes on the HTPC.  I remember a much longer process on the other machine
    • Make the following changes to MPC-HC options:
      • Internal Filters, uncheck: Matroska and MPEG/PS/TS/PVA
      • External Filters, add: LAV Splitter, LAV Splitter Source, LAV Audio Decoder.  Set all of these to "Prefer"
      • Double click LAV Audio Decoder.  Check all Bitstreaming Formats, but NOT "Use DTS-HD Framing for all DTS types"  Update: do not check Dolby Digital (AC3) or Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC3).  If these are checked, will get no audio for these formats.  There may be something I'm not getting right which causes this to need to be done.
    • In Sound > Playback, check HDMI Output Properties (see note above re 7.1 & 5.1 PCM)