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Anticipating a Better Picture – Over the Air Television

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Christmas Reindeer inspect the new flat antenna before it is positioned for best reception.

One of the things on our Christmas wish list this year was a gift for our TV set.

Television – in my lifetime, I’ve ‘seen’ it all! Our first TV had rabbit ears which were enhanced with wire and tinfoil. In later years we had roof top antennas, then big satellite dishes, little satellite dishes, and cables. Our first TV gave us one station. In later years we had dozens of stations, then hundreds of stations. Our TV screens were sometimes as small as a laptop computer, sometimes big boxes that took two men to lift, and finally flat screen lightweights that hung on the wall.

We wanted to see if we could ‘cut the cord’ on our Satellite TV service. To do that, we needed a digital antenna that would pick up free Over the Air (OTA) television. The Car Guy chose a TERK omni-digital antenna for 1080 HDTV broadcasts.

Like children who peek at their presents before Christmas morning,  we opened this  gift a few weeks ago. The installation was very easy once The Car Guy had finished exploring all the possible ways not to connect the cable.  We were pleasantly (okay ecstatically) pleased with the crystal clear High Definition picture we now receive thanks to an uncompressed signal.

The antenna cost just a little more than the price of one month’s satellite TV and gives us free TV from 6 local stations: GLOBAL, CTV, CITY, CBC, YES and OMNI.  Three of these stations broadcast the seven shows we like to watch each week. What a great Christmas present!

Have you ‘cut the cord’ on your TV service? Discontinued the phone land line and gone cellular? Turned off the internet for more than a day? Moved out of your parents basement? Finished your Christmas shopping? Do you anticipate doing any of these things?

My selection of quotations for this post is at Televisions.

This week’s WordPress.com photo challenge is Anticipation.

Post 557

 

My First Look at Windows 8.1

This is the last post on my old computer… probably. The average operational lifespan of a laptop is apparently about  5 years.  The useful lifespan can be as little as 2 years, thanks to an industry that is based on the concept of planned obsolescence.

My laptop just passed that magic 5 year mark and it has become quite crotchety. It often gets up in the morning and can’t find it’s mouse. I have to turn the computer off, unplug it, plug it back in and reboot it. Then it finds the mouse, but it might refuse to talk to the memory stick it was good friends with just the day before.

Last week my laptop decided to issue a gag order on the Internet Security software. I eventually had to let a tech support guy named Raj in India sort the whole thing out. That wasn’t exactly a quick fix, either. I watched Raj work for over an hour, and while I understood everything he did, I sure wouldn’t have had the courage to muck around the registry the way he did!

The writing was on the wall, however, so I started to look for my next laptop. What I thought I wanted, and what is available, are two different things. What is in the store to try, and what is for sale online are two different things too.

In a complete departure from my normal shopping routine, I bought a new computer at the second story I walked into. Then I spent the next two days second guessing my purchase – mostly because I second guess every purchase I make. The Car Guy just shakes his head at my dithering – “It’s not like you have to live with this decision for the rest of your life, you know…”

I have been trying to bond with my new computer. The learning curve has been monumental because the operating system is Microsoft Windows 8.1. I’m only fluent in Windows 7. My experience so far has been sort of like going to the dentist, shopping for a bathing suit, starting a diet and finding a dent in my car – all on the same day.

My Desktop

An early version of my Windows 7 desktop – the sticky notes haven’t taken over the screen yet…

Windows 8.1, I’m sorry to report, has a split personality. The dominant persona is a bossy ‘App’ based creature that wants to tether me to the outside world in order to force feed me content on a page full of  colorful tiles. I’m not all that interested in most of these tiles and apps, however. I want my Windows 7 messy desktop with the links to my programs and my digital yellow sticky notes and my calendar gadget…

Wait! I just found a Windows 8.1 tweaking website that tells me how to get back to a Windows 7 feel. Today is going to be a good day to try out all sorts of things…

Are you a Windows or an Apple person? What version of OS are you using? What does your desktop look like?

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Apples and Blackberries – My Blackberry is Not Working

Life was so much easier when Apple and Blackberry were just fruits!
– Author Unknown –

Now-a-days 12 year olds have a blackberry, an iPad, a laptop, and a Facebook profile. When I was 12, I felt Cool with my New Gel Pen.
– Author Unknown –

The QuipperyI didn’t really mean to publish this post at this time. I had it ‘Scheduled’ and forgot to unschedule it.

Bad news came in triplicate this week – not really the time to post something like this. Then again, maybe it is the best time. I watched it again this morning – for maybe the tenth time ever, and it  made me smile…

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Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Manual

There comes a time when all people break down and do the unthinkable: They read the manual.
– Author Unknown –

In our family – I read the manual before I push any buttons, turn any knobs, plug anything in. The Car Guy doesn’t. (This post, How to Boil Water, is a good example of the way we approach these things.) What about your family? Is Manual Reading a ‘Pink Job – Blue Job‘ thing, or do you think it is non-gender specific?

I have a New Camera (Canon PowerShot SX50 HS).  New buttons, new dials, new printed manual. No, not a big manual. A mini-manual – the one that says ‘Getting Started’. This showed me how to insert the battery and memory card and warned me, in 3 pages of tiny type, of all the safety precautions I should follow. ‘Getting Started” assured me that I could take my first few pictures without knowing what all the buttons and dials will do – so I bravely went where I would not normally go, and I took a few pictures. Then I removed the battery and put it in the charger because it was dead. I took that as a sign – the ‘Getting Started’ Manual didn’t really think I was ready to use this camera.

The real manual is a 286 page document stored in a PDF document that is password protected. A password protected document often severely limits certain useful features of a PDF document, and so it is with this one, as you will see in a moment. The document is set up so you can view two 5.5 X 8.5 inch pages at a time on your computer or a single page on iPad or iPhone like devices. So far, so good (though trying to read the manual on a phone is a chore of immense frustration.)

I wanted to print parts of the document and I believed that each two page spread  would print quite nicely on an 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper. The document believed otherwise, insisting that each half a page deserved a full page of paper. End of discussion – for now.

camera

Here is my new camera. The only button that I am very sure about is the one that says ‘ON/OFF’. The rest are a bit of a mystery right now.

2013-Canon PowerShot SX50 manual - 1

Here are the two pages in the manual that explain all the dials and buttons.

2013-Canon PowerShot SX50 manual - 2

This is the same two pages, but edited to show what I understood by the time the battery was charged.

This is one of the more interesting things in my yard right now – dead things from last year. Maybe by the time there are green things and flowers, I’ll have mastered the macro feature!

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Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Camera – Zoom

I got a new camera a few days ago.  It is the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS. I’ll skip right to the photos I took this morning so that you can see why I am very happy with this camera.

This was the view from my back door this morning. The neighbour’s farm buildings are near the centre of the photo (you can barely see the red barn), and the moon was in the sky above them. The sun was just coming up.

The PowerShot has a 50X optical zoom lens with Image Stabilizer. In layman terms, a zoom lens makes far away things look closer.

This is the red barn when I zoomed in on it.

This is the moon when I zoomed in on it.

The camera was set to AUTO mode, and I did not use a tripod. I think that bears repeating – I hand held the camera, and used the full AUTO mode. Point – shoot!

This camera does not come with a memory card, so we bought a SanDisk Extreme SDHC UHS-I Card. It is a ‘fast write’ card that allows the camera to record photos almost instantly. Extreme lens – extreme memory card.

The SX50 HS belongs to a group of cameras called ‘Bridge Cameras‘. They are larger and more feature rich than most ‘point and shoot’ cameras, but are not as advanced as an SLR camera. Bridge Cameras have a single fixed lens that is often, as in the case of this camera, a superzoom lens.

As you can see from these photos, I am back in Canada. Brown grass, no green things in the flower beds yet. The last of the snow melted yesterday. Temperatures still below freezing most nights. The robins arrived a few days ago. The tulips have just poked out of the ground. I think it must be spring time!

Spring means yard work, and that means there are never enough hours in a day!

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Computers 101 – How to Turn on Your Laptop

Parents know how to push your buttons because, hey, they sewed them on.
– Camryn Manheim –

The VAIO computer ‘on’ button

The instructions for powering up my Sony VAIO laptop are pretty simple. They are found on a sheet of paper that is filed in a folder in the cabinet in our home office. They read:

Lift the LCD screen lid – Press the power button until the power indicator light turns on.

(Apparently I either never read those instructions, or if I did, I forgot them. And really, how much use is a piece of paper in the file cabinet anyhow?)

Unlike many computers, the power button for my laptop is a large button on the right side of the machine. Most laptops have a power button that is under the lid. If a button is under a lid, it can’t be pushed until the lid is opened. If it is on the outside, it says (to me anyhow) you can push me first if you like and then open the lid – which I have been doing for two years and it almost always caused the computer to start up. Almost always.

The first time my computer would not turn on, I ended up taking it to the  repair shop. They charged me $50 and told me they could find nothing wrong.  Apparently they opened the lid before they pushed the ‘on’ button, but they didn’t bother to explain that to me because, well, they assumed I would already know that.

The second time my computer would not turn on, I decided I had better trouble shoot the problem myself and save the $50. In the course of poking and prodding the lifeless little beast, I must have lifted the lid ever so slightly before pressing the power button. The computer leaped into action. It dawned on me then that the lid might have to be lifted ever so slightly before the computer would start, and yes, the instructions in the file cabinet confirmed that.

There are several lessons in this little story. The first is, just because you have done something in a certain way several thousand times, don’t assume you will always get the same result the next time you try it. All it takes is the smallest alteration of one insignificant parameter (in this case the ever so slight difference between a lid that is closed, and a lid that is not quite closed) to change the result. The second lesson is, learn from the mistakes of others – you can never live long enough to make them all yourself. (Don’t thank me, I’m glad to be a lesson in what not to do.)

There are three kinds of men; the ones that learn by reading, the few who learn by observation, the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence.
– Will Rogers –

If Sony had a sticker on the lid of the computer that said “open the lid before pushing the ‘On’ button” would I have thought, “Gee, that is a helpful little piece of advice” or would I have thought “Duh, doesn’t everyone know that”?

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Communications History – The Telephone

The Car Guy took a consulting job this past January. It was supposed to take only a few months of full time work, but that was not to be. Seven months in, and there is no end in sight. He is more than ready to retire again. It isn’t that he doesn’t like the project, or the challenge. What is really getting him down is how hard it is to get away from the job after work hours now that he has a company issued Blackberry phone.

Communications have changed considerably since he embarked on his career in the 1970’s. When he first started working, he spent much of his time in remote locations. At that time, reports were hand printed on a form, then voice relayed to the head office by mobile radio. Land lines came later, and with them came the addition of a fax machine which enabled information to be sent back and forth much faster.

black push buttonThe phones in use at that time had rotary dials, but by the 1980’s most businesses and homes had moved up to the push button phone. (The one in this photo lives here at the Red House, and has been in service for about 40 years.)

With the advent of Computers, then the Internet and Cell Phones, communication speed increased. Messaging became instant and some would say more and more invasive. The demarcation line between home and office blurred, then disappeared.

When The Car Guy retired, this line had not yet been crossed. But today, he is subjected to the never ending nagging presence of mail on his Blackberry. The expectations of his co-workers, and the job, never end. Not only that, but everyday communication with family and friends is reaching the same level of immediacy. One of my children has suggested that I buy a smart phone, and learn how to text message. “Just think,” she said, “You would be able to get text messages from us even while you are at the cabin!” (We don’t have a phone there, nor voice cell phone coverage unless we walk about 1/2 a mile and sit by the dumpsters…)

But I kind of like the idea that the cabin is part of a time warp zone of silence. It takes me back to the days when The Car Guy would phone me after 2 weeks of silence to say, “I’m coming home tomorrow. Pick me up at the airport, okay?” The days where we lived for weeks at a time by Marriage Rule #1 – No News is Good News!

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