Looking Back at the Kringle Cast

Apparently I’m getting all friggin’ nostalgic.

I have all, or at least most, of the old podcasts that I’ve been a part of.  Recently I was perusing through them and found this gem.  The Kringle Cast was one of my favorite podcast ideas.  The concept was to have a phone line that children could call into and then Santa Claus and his new media elves, Jingle and Jangle, would play the voicemails and talk about them.  They would also play podsafe Christmas music.  I did a proof of concept show with my own twin 3 1/2 year olds calling in and it really makes me happy to hear it 10+ years later.

It never took off, mostly because I started too damn late in the year and I ran out of time.

Enjoy!

 

What Girl Scout Cookie Reigns Supreme?

Back in 2011, the podcast Homemade is Best was in full production. My co-host Helana and I were hitting our stride and produced some great content.  One of my favorite recipes that I replicated during this time was the homemade Thin Mint recipe.  Still, nearly 10 years later, I still have vivid memories of how much better a homemade thin mint cookie is than the original.

The recipe links from the original episode are not working, but below are a couple that look like reasonable replicas.  Try them out and take the poll!

Links to Recipes & Podcasts:

Keto Pancakes Recipe

Extending Google WiFi

Ever since moving to a larger home two years ago, I’ve been dealing with WiFi dead zones.  The home is 2800 sf and it is a two-story home.  The footprint is not very large though.  You would have thought that a centrally located router/access point (router) would do the job.  Not so.  From day one I’ve had problems.  The cable company router is located upstairs and in an office, while not central, very close to.

The first solution was to purchase one of those high-powered octopus antenna router units.  This helped the adjacent rooms, but didn’t reach downstairs to the FireTV Stick in the back of the family room TV.

Second solution was to use a RAIR (redundant array of inexpensive routers) wired together with Ethernet over power lines with TP-LINK units.  The remote routers were put in access point mode by turning off DHCP and assigning a static IP address to each unit.  This was successful from a technical standpoint.  There were four routers all connected to the cable modem router and it worked…sometimes.  The TP-LINK units had to be power cycled about once a week.

The final solution turned out to be one of the latest mesh WiFi network setups.  I purchased Google WiFi on the recommendation of tech guru Ty Smith.  I unplugged all the RAIRs and configured Google WiFi following the instructions.  It just worked.  The mesh WiFi units were put in basically the same locations as the remote routers, but now everything works.  No static IPs and no TP-LINKs.

Well, that’s almost true.  My twins’ bedroom still has cruddy WiFi.  So bad that they could not do homework on their Google Classroom account and turn in homework. The configuration below is what fixed it all.

Good thing I didn’t throw away the TP-LINK units. Turns out that the walls of the offending bedroom just has too much interference. I could have purchased another Google WiFi unit to see if that would help, but I had a bunch of TP-LINKS now sitting around gathering dust. The above configuration did the trick. In addition to providing WiFi to the previous uber-dead zone, I could now control the devices connecting through the remote router with the Google WiFi app on my Android phone.

Homemade Is Best #24 – The (Lost) Cheese Episode

Many years ago, I had a cooking podcast with a lovely woman called Helana Brigman.  We produced 23 great episodes that were posted at the website, Homemade Is Best.  I let that domain name lapse and it was quickly picked up by a spammer and filled with fake ads touting all sorts of wares.  It is now just a misconfigured webhost landing page.

What’s not widely known, except by Helana and myself, is that we actually recorded 24 podcast episodes.  There was a lost 24th episode that never made it to the website.  Why?  There were some technical difficulties with recording.  The episode ended up being recorded in three separate parts.  And then I ended up changing computers before the episode got edited and posted…until now.  I’m getting rid of some of the old computers sitting around the office and the Mac Mini that I used to record the podcasts on is now going bye-bye.  But before it goes, had to get this lost episode of Homemade Is Best out on the blog.  The podcast was recorded in October 18, 2011.

This episode is all about making your own, homemade cheese.  Ricotta?  Vegan?  How about feta? What about mozzarella? With predominantly the same tools you use to cook your daily meals, you can make your own cheese!  We also snuck in a yogurt recipe.

Links Mentioned in the Episode:

Special tools needed:

Be sure to upgrade your kitchen knowledge with the Basic Food Prep Term of the WeekScald

Full disclosure:  I have still not made cheese, but now will.

Combine Multiple PDF Files in Linux

I switched over to LinuxMint full-time this year.  More about that later.  But I’m learning the tools now available in Linux.  So…

I had an occasion of combine multiple PDF files.  Not having Adobe Acrobat Pro or otherwise, I was unaware of how to do it with Linux.  A quick Google search later and I found pdfunite.  Input PDF files get listed first and the last file is the output file that you’d like the input PDF files combined into.

pdfunite 1.pdf 2.pdf 3.pdf output.pdf

It worked perfectly.  I did change the input file names to exactly what is listed above.  Much easier to type in than the verbose file names that I originally used.

Where can I get my own personal beach table?

Folding table image

Personal Beach Table

Every time we pull this little Personal Beach Table
out of the bag someone asks me where I got it. My wife got it at Ross, locally, but they have them on Amazon for only $16.94 and free shipping with Amazon Prime.  It’s the perfect table to accompany the Tommy Bahama Beach Chairthat everyone is buying at Costco.

You can get yours at the link below.

Straight Talk Wireless APN Settings for MMS

Straight_TalkAround September 2013 I decided to ditch AT&T for my mobile phone service and move to Straight Talk Wireless.  I love the service, especially the price.  The service is $45 for unlimited talk, texts and data.  I have not tested the limits of “unlimited”, but it works well.

One caveat is MMS.  Straight Talk has a problem setting up phones with MMS.  Apparently it’s not standard between carriers or phones.  At any rate, sometimes MMS messages have a problem.  That’s probably why you’re here.

Doing some searching, I found a link to a forum post that explained the settings to get MMS working on a Nexus 5, an Android phone.  These setting are the ones that work best for me, so I’m sharing in the hope that you find it useful.

On your phone, navigate through Settings to Mobile Networks, then to Access Point Names (APNs).  Create a new profile and call it Straight Talk.  Populate it with the following settings:

  • Name=Straight Talk
  • APN=tfdata
  • Proxy=not set
  • Port=Not set
  • Username=not set
  • Password=not set
  • Server=Not Set
  • MMSC=http://mms-tf.net
  • MMS proxy = mms3.tracfone.com
  • MMS PORT=80
  • MCC=310
  • MNC=410
  • Authentication Type=PAP
  • APN type=default,supl,mms,hipri
  • APN Protocol=IPv4
  • APN Roaming Protocol=IPv4
  • Bearer= unspecified
  • MVNO type=None

Save the settings and restart your phone.

If these settings do not work with the standard Texting app on your phone, try a replacement like Textra SMS or TextSecure.

Amazon Raising Prime Service to $99/year

It was inevitable. I received the following email today from Amazon informing me that the price of their Amazon Primewill go up from $79 to $99 per year.

Dear Russell Turley,

We are writing to provide you advance notice that the price of your Prime membership will be increasing. The annual rate will be $99 when your membership renews on August 28, 2014.

Even as fuel and transportation costs have increased, the price of Prime has remained the same for nine years. Since 2005, the number of items eligible for unlimited free Two-Day Shipping has grown from one million to over 20 million. We also added unlimited access to over 40,000 movies and TV episodes with Prime Instant Video and a selection of over 500,000 books to borrow from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

For more information about your Prime membership, visit our Prime membership page.

Sincerely,

The Amazon Prime Team

amazonprimeIn a previous post I hinted that I may not renew the service based on the classification of items as Add-Ons.  That has not been as big a problem as I envisioned then.  I now buy enough through Amazon that when I want to purchase an item designated as an Add-on, I have more in my cart that meets the requirement.  It does still bug though.  It is nice that a full five months before my service renews that I’m getting notice. Though, I would probably forget about the increase in price by then and rail about not being notified. This post should stop that.

Their reasons for increasing the cost, their increasing costs to provide the service, is reasonable.

With the increase, Amazon Prime is now $8.25 per month. If you are only using Amazon Primefor the movie and TV service, then you are now paying more than you would be for Netflix.  For breadth of shows Amazon still pales in comparison to Netflix, except in one area, new TV shows and movies.  Shows that are currently running on cable channels, like one of my favorite cancelled shows Psych, are available to purchase the day after they air on their channel.  It’s a nice feature that Netflix doesn’t offer.  If you don’t want to wait for the latest season to be available on Prime or Netflix for no additional cost, you have that option.

Streaming video aside, we subscribe and get batteries, toilet paper, etc. delivered regularly, and I am always reading some borrowed Kindle book on the Kindle or other tablet.  I’d say that I’m getting my $8.25 worth and then some every month so the increase is not causing me to jump ship.

Are you going to dump Amazon Prime because of the price increase?

Great Gifts for the Geek in Your Life

lights

People are always asking me if this tech gift or that geek gift is right for their significant other.  The one rule that I try to follow is this, “most electronics are crap”.  This is particularly true for many of the gifts that are marketed for “the geek in your life” around the holiday season.  With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 5 Gifts that I’d love to get myself this year.


1. Roku 3 Streaming Media Player– It’s a set-top box that has the best interface of any similar device I’ve ever used.  These features are supposedly built into many Smart TVs, but the one thing they get all wrong is the interface.  Roku gets it right.  Netflix, check.  Amazon, check.  Every other streaming service, check.


2.Motorola Moto G – 16GB– The Moto G, due to be released on December 4th, is a great way to give a new Android smartphone to your luvva without chaining them to a two-year commitment.  It has much in common with its big brother Moto X, but for less than $200 it’s a stupendous deal.

3.Kindle Fire HDX 7″/ Google Nexus 7– Everyone wants a tablet, even if they don’t need one.  They are one of the hottest tech gifts period.  The reason for calling out both, rather than just the Nexus 7 is whether or not you are into Amazon Instant Video streaming.  If you’re a fan of that service then the tablet to get is the Fire, otherwise I would get the Nexus 7.  It is a quick tablet with a fabulous display.  I would also skip the 10″ version of any tablet.  They’re just too darn big.

4.Amazon Prime– If you are receiving a constant stream of purchase from Amazon, there’s a good chance that you are already an Amazon Prime member, but how about your father-in-law.  The impossible to buy for father-in-law.  He could use Prime as well.   Not only do you get free 2-day shipping on a significant percentage of items in the Amazon store, but you also get to stream all the available Instant Video choices that are included as part of the subscription.


5.Lenovo IdeaPad S400– The ultimate Christmas gift, a new laptop computer.  My recommendation is one of the Lenovo IdeaPad models.  They have plenty of power, plus they have touch screens.  That way when you reach out and interact with the computer with your finger, it will actually respond.

Now, you may be asking, where are all the Apple products?  Back at the store where they belong.  I can’t in good conscience ask anyone to buy Apple products where you get less for your money and are locked in with a company that only wants to extract every last cent it can out of the consumer.  If you are into Apple products, move on and God help you.

One last piece of advice, skip the extended warranty on your devices.  They are unnecessary most times and when/if it does become necessary to replace the device you won’t want to have it replaced with the same old many year-old tech.