Fixing the CD player

I mean, I don’t really use it, but it wouldn’t close so things got a bit interesting.

“What’s with the CD player?”

“It’s broken”


“I don’t know. Something about a coin”

“A coin?”

“Nanny said there is a coin in there due to the young one because he was playing with it”

So I pulled it out of the rack and it weighed quite a bit more than I remember it. I tilted it on it’s side and it was like a box full of rocks with all the noise. A quick twist of some screws, the obligatory nearly slicing my fingers on a too sharp edge of the case (stupid manufacturers) and I had a great view of the ‘coin’. All told there was about 75 coins inside, a few pieces of paper and a Thomas the Tank engine trading card.

Let’s just post the picture so you understand what I’m up against. Time for a new stereo rack–this one with a door or something.


Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

My most recent order from Amazon arrives in a day or so. Haven’t read a novel in about a year (too many ‘real’ books to read) so I thought I’d give this one a try. Caught a bit on Deutche Welle the other day talking about the movie that was just released based on this book (and is breaking all sorts of film records in Sweden or wherever it was released). Guess we’ll have to see what all the hype is about.


A week without cable

Well, I survived, more of less. When I was in Hong Kong, there were basically only a few channels of English programming. BBC World, CNN International, DW (English and German), the English Premier League soccer channel and ATV, which showed reruns of 24 and a few other tv shows. In fact, while I was over there I started watching the ‘Drew Carey’ show simply because it was on (and later, because it actually was quite funny at times). That last little bit is kind of funny. After the cable was ‘cut’ the TV turned to static. I then connected the wires and whatnot and ran the auto-tune on the TV to find the channels. When it has finished it stopped on the ‘ION’ Channel which is a DC-based repeat channel, and believe it or not the opening credits for the Drew Carey Show were playing on the TV. Talk about a weird flashback. It hasn’t actually been total, as we’ve been able to get some digital feeds from over the air and through other means, so TV hasn’t been totally ‘gone’. But on those few occasions when I flip on the TV (which now runs through the computer, btw, rather than through the TV tuner) I’ve pretty quickly been able to ascertain ‘there is nothing on worth watching at this moment’ pretty quickly. I’m sure I probably could have seen Notre Dame’s horrible loss in hockey last night, or a better movie than the one I watched last night had I still had all the movie channels and the on demand library, but I don’t think I’ve missed all that much. I’ve been doing a lot of TIVO’ing off of the over the air signals and integrating with Boxee, Hulu and Front Row on the Mac. There is a pretty cool media interface set up now where we can flip between all the content we’ve recorded and even more that is online (note to apple: Boxee will kill you unless you expand Front Row to include online content). We’ve grabbed a large number of Thomas the Tank Engines (to replace the ‘on demand’ feature we had before) and also a couple of MI-5 episodes and Mystery, a show we like to watch when relaxing. We’ve watched two DVDs this week and, perhaps thankfully, I spent two nights going to bed about 8 pm with the kids (so that I could be more functional at 5 am when they awoke looking for their trains). One week down, many many more to go.]]>

Catholics back on the throne of England?

The Queen and the PM are in talks about just that sort of idea.

Turning in his grave.

Turning in his grave.

The London Times is reporting that discussions have begun on abolishing the Act of Settlement which bars Catholics from the Royal Family. There is also an effort to remove the primogeniture which find male heirs favored for the throne as well. Unfortunately, there are some legal scholars that believe it would take an act of parliament in every commonwealth country before it could take effect.

It doesn’t help me. There were no eligible or good looking heirs available when I was of marrying age. But if Prince William would hurry up and tie the knot, deliver a good looking daughter, than maybe one of my sons could marry into the royal line and their offspring become the first Catholic King or Queen in many centuries. Bet I’d get better season tickets to Arsenal if my kids were in the royal box.


Slingplayer for iPhone

From the about fricking time department, word has come from the TUAW that the much anticipated Slingplayer application for the iPhone has been submitted for approval with the overlords at Apple HQ. Slingplayer is a tool of many an expat used to ’sling’ back television content from a central location (i.e. their parent’s house) to their current assignment overseas. It’s also used by people in offices, geeks in college, and plenty of other folks who need to move their video content from one place to another (myself included).

When the iPhone first came out, we heard rumors that Sling would do an application, but that was off/on/only if jailbroken/on/off/on again, or something to that effect. There are already several other live TV apps for the iPhone that are out, but few that will have the functionality as basically getting your cable TV on your iPhone.

And this is the week I got rid of cable in the house. I think the Slingplayer is still in a pile of cables behind where the Comcast box once stood. Guess I have to rewire things.


Using your cell phone overseas (how to do it cheaply).

Although I’ve not gotten a stamp in my passport in about 18 months, in recent years I’ve spent literally hundreds of days overseas away from the convenience of my landline phone and US-based mobile. I’ve tried a wide variety of means to stay in touch, but I think I’ve finally come up with a formula that makes a bit of sense. And since the New York Times is writing about the same thing today now is as good a day as any to share my thoughts.

In the old days, I would take an unlocked GSM phone and simply buy a UK or DE or HK SIM card upon arrival in a new country, giving me a local phone number where I could be reached. Unfortunately this did not help me with making calls back to the US, which usually required calling cards (that ended up being quite expensive). Pay as you go also was quite expensive on a minute by minute basis. For example, a week in the UK would easily run me £100 in phone charges. And added to this is the fact overseas Pay as You go numbers often disappear after lack of use of 6 months or so (which is now an issue).

Now my setup is much cheaper.

First, Skype. I have Skype, Skype Out and Skype In set up. I have a phone number in London and one in Hong Kong that people can call and it will ring on my computer if my computer is turned on. If my computer is not turned on, then it forwards to a number of my choice. I can also use my iPhone and Fring should I be without a laptop (rare). Note, both computer and iPhone require an internet connection, but since I usually have that in the hotel it’s not really a big issue.

Second, the unlocked phone is still around. I usually have that as the recipient of my Skype calls so I don’t have to pay the massive data roaming charges using my US phone overseas. I also like the freedom to call friends ‘in country’ without having to pay roaming. But now that I’m not using it as frequently the costs have definitely gone down quite a bit.

So now for international calls, I will use Skype in the hotel which is only pennies a minute, and for local in country calls I use my country-specific mobile phone. For calls from other countries to me they are routed to my ‘device of the moment’ so people can continue to reach me on my consistent Skype In number and not have to memorize whatever pay-as-you-go number I’m using at the time.

During my last week in London, my phone charges were £10 total. Quite a savings.


Comcast has left the building

Well we had a bit of a grace period while they worked out just exactly how to disconnect things, but just a few moments ago the remnants of the CNBC feed disappeared into static. It’s kind of like a power failure–there is no more cable in the house.

We got by pretty well last night. We sat down and booted up Hulu to watch the NBC Show ‘Kings’ (which we actually kind of liked). Tonight it is Quantam of Silence — the first James Bond I haven’t seen in a theater since I was an infant (because we had a newly arrived infant that prevented me from getting out to the cinema). Tomorrow may be a better test when I’ll be relying on IPTV in total to keep abreast of the news.

The BBC is coming in pretty well. Here’s a picture of last nights 6:00 news streamed live into the house.


No more Comcast cable as of today.

I dropped off the Cable Boxes this morning. It’s been a long friendship between me and that lovely pice of coaxial, but I realized if I’m truly going to get a taste of what else is out there, I’ve got to eliminate the ‘easy’ way of watching TV–flipping on the cable–and try the new new thing of IPTV.

It’s actually not going to be that tough, when you get down to brass tacks. I took a look at the list of channels that I have and separated the list into ‘Never Watched’, ‘Rarely Watched’ and ‘Watched Regularly’. The findings were somewhat interesting:

Of the 229 Channels, there are:

56 regularly watched channels, of which 30 were movie channels.

28 rarely watched channels, such as only when the Tour de France was on, or one specific show.

127 NEVER watched channels. I never ever switched over to these channels in the five years of having cable.

So my bill was $152 for 56 regularly watched channels, the majority of which were movie channels. I’ve already got a substitute for movies (Netflix, Redbox, Hulu and Joost) and the other main substitute, news, is being replaced by some online options, including adding the BBC 1-4 to my computer.

The hole where Comcast once was

The hole where Comcast once was

Because I was going to cut my TV service, I would lose the ‘discount’ on my Internet. The discount was $17, and Comcast basic analog service (over the air channels) is $18, so I just went ahead and said ‘give me the channels anyway’. I still will pursue an HDTV antenna to see if over the air HD is possible out here in the boonies.

So now the real test starts more or less tomorrow (it takes a day to cut off service and I’m sitting here drinking up the last few moments of live CNBC as the market rallies). The upstairs TV is now neutered as I haven’t got the new computer set up upstairs (I need to fish the Ethernet cable through 3 floors of the house, something the wife isn’t really keen on my doing just now). But we haven’t watched the TV upstairs in about a week or so anyway so we should survive.