Help the Ayers Family

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Sadly, this is not a typical post about gadgets or my latest Amazon purchase. This week my circle of friends lost someone who was also a father of four and whose wife is also one of our friends.

On Wednesday, Bradley Ayers unexpectedly passed away, leaving behind the four children and wife he adored. If you can, please donate in order to help his children make it to his funeral and help his wife relocate closer to family. Any assistance will be greatly appreciated.

https://gofund.me/bcadc24d

Using ffmpeg on macOS to Correct AVI Index Errors and Convert to MP4

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I’ve had a dashcam in my car for several years. My first dashcam worked great but after a few years it died. I replaced it with a less expensive unit and, as they say, you get what you pay for. It works OK. The quality and perspective isn’t as good as my first dashcam – it also doesn’t record GPS and current speed. If I replace this one I’m definitely going to get one that has features more similar to my first dashcam.

In addition, the video that I pull from the SD cards it records to usually have index errors, which prevent the videos from playing in most players (it works in VLC but requires a little bit of preprocessing to correct index issues). Obviously, this isn’t very good for something recording video that might one day be provided to law enforcement, compiled into a video poking fun at bad drivers or perhaps on the rare ocassion you’re nearly hit by a horse and rider as they gallop across a busy highway. I used ffmpeg to correct this issue with the last video prevoiusly linked.

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Revisiting the Mass Effect Universe in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition

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I’ve enjoyed the Mass Effect series of games since the first game was released in 2007. Over the years I’ve played through all of the games (Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect: Andromeda) at least twice with several shorter revistations here and there. Most of the time I played them on Xbox 360 and Xbox One consoles, though I’ve also played Mass Effect 3 on Windows.

I’m a fan of many aspects of the games. They generally have very good writing and dialog and exceptional music and overall design. As a sci-fi fan, I’m also fond of the various references to other science fiction works (Alien, Bladerunner, Ender’s Game, Babylon 5 and so on).

Bioware decided to re-release the original three games, which include massive overhauls of the graphics, gameplay and many other characteristics, bringing the games up to a more modern gaming experience. Of course, I could not pass this up. I’ve played through these games in various ways and have experienced all of the high-tier endings.

I purchased my copy from GameStop (due to a strong desire to quickly acquire the game) but you can easily find the Xbox One version of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition on Amazon. Note that it is also available for PlayStation 4 and Windows 10.

I started out taking my time in Mass Effect to enjoy the updated graphics but after a while I decided to skip many of the side missions and focus on finishing the game more quickly. The other missions are worth the time, but I have played Mass Effect so many times that I was ready to jump on into Mass Effect 2, which many, myself included, regard as THE best Mass Effect game in the series.

I’m having a blast in ME2 right now. I’ve been focused on powering up early on (as I often do in Mass Effect games) playing in the normal mode as an Infiltrator. Sniper rilfes are a favorite of mine in the ME games so I tend to prioritize increasing any related skills. ME2 is also the game that really makes Incendiary Ammo a fun add-on.

I’ll likely take my time with ME2. It’s a large game with a number of side missions and many of the available choices will have a greater impact in ME3.

Is it worth it as a fan of the Mass Effect series? Absolutely! If you’re new to the series this may also be the best way to jump in.

A Simple Serving Tray

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This post contains Amazon Associate links. If you purchase something through them I may get a small commission, which helps cover the hosting costs for this blog.

I spend some time on the couch watching shows and playing games. So does my son. I have side tables on each side of the couch but he still has a habit of placing food and snacks on the ottoman instead of using the side tables. To avoid (further) spills I decided to get some kind of serving tray for us to use.

I didn’t want to get another TV tray because, even though I have one, those can easily be tipped over. So after reading several products reviews I found the Greenco Rectangle Bamboo Butler Serving Tray With Handles. At only $15 it turned out to be more sturdy than I was expecting.

An added bonus is that it happens to fit nicely inside the ottoman, so I can easily hide it when it’s not in use. For an inexpensive product, it’s worked perfectly.

Organizing Batteries with a Battery Daddy

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This post contains Amazon Associate links. If you purchase something through them I may get a small commission, which helps cover the hosting costs for this blog.

The Battery Daddy (in box)

Being a tech geek, and also having a child, batteries are often in demand. Though I do have rechargeable batteries that I frequently use, I’ve found that some toys and devices work better with disposable batteries in certain cases, so I still order sets of batteries from Amazon from time to time. I can’t tell you if the quality of the Amazon Basics is any better than other brands, but I certainly get more for my money.

For several years I’ve simply kept them in a plain, plastic box. At some point I started using some small battery organizers, which worked alright but even then the little box can get clutterd. At some point, while shopping, I encountered the Battery Daddy. It’s a neat little organizer that is designed to hold a lot of batteries with storage on both sides of the carrying case. At the time, I just made a note as a reminder but didn’t purchase it.

Last month I finally got around to ordering my own Battery Daddy from Amazon for about $17. I’m definitely pleased with this purchase. It keeps the batteries from getting cluttered and rolling around – the large volume of batteries that I order easily fit in this case with room to spare.

If you’re into keeping things organized, I think this is definitely a worth-while purchase.

2008 Chevy Impala Won’t Shift – Shift Cable Repair End (Grommet)

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This post contains Amazon Associate links. If you purchase something through them I may get a small commission, which helps cover the hosting costs for this blog.

A few months ago I had wrapped up some shopping at Walmart, with my son, and was leaving when I discovered that my car would not shift gears…

There’s a much longer story here but I’ll shorten it up considerably. A buddy of mine met us there and helped me get it going so we could drive it back to my place and work on it. The failure was very simple – the piece of plastic that connects the shifting cable to the top of the transmission had failed.

Top of Transmission
Shift Cable

Unfortunately, a few days later I learned that a simple, universal part wasn’t so universal.

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Repairing a Samsung Dryer (DV42H5000EW/A3) – No Heat

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This post contains Amazon Associate links. If you purchase something through them I may get a small commission, which helps cover the hosting costs for this blog.

About a month ago my dryer stopped… drying. It wasn’t slow to dry. There was no heat. None. This lead me to conclude that it was most likely the heating element or one of the sensors attached to it. Now, up to this point I had never actually replaced one, but after doing some research it didn’t seem to be too difficult. Before going this route I checked to determine if I had a warranty on the dryer but it turns out that I did not. In addition, even if I had a three year warranty it would have expired five days prior!

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It’s Still Working: As of October 2019

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Every now and then I like to add updates to my various blog posts to indicate whether or not an individual product that I purchased, often several years ago, is still working. I think this may be a little helpful to anyone that has recently purchased, or is thinking about purchasing, the same product.

This is not a list of every single item that I’ve purchased. It doesn’t include things that might be sitting in a closet and haven’t been used in a while. This is a list of things that I’ve recently used, or, I know are still working (in a few cases I’ve listed items that I don’t own anymore, but I know they still work). Some I’ve used only once or twice in the past month, while others are items that I use on a daily basis. Items that failed, or I sold for some reason, aren’t here (it doesn’t mean those items were bad, but, I’m not actually now).

In general, I would normally go back and update each post with this information. I may still do this, but today I decided to take the lazy route and simply list the items that I still use (sometimes frequently and other times, infrequently), starting with the oldest items.

Note that there a number of other products that I’ve never created a post about, which are just as worthy of being listed. Perhaps one day, I’ll cover those (for example, the portable battery I’ve been using for several years, my MacBook Air (mid-2013) that’s still kicking or the various Zwave devices I’ve been using for a long time).

A Gamer Parent’s Opinion on Violence in Video Games

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Similar to how we refer to younger generations as Digital Natives, I suppose you should refer to me as a Video Game Native. Video games have existed throughout my life, though in my earliest years, they very rudimentary, by today’s standards.

I grew up hearing opinions that video games cause violence and that they desensitize people to it. Before you start firing up your comments, hold on a moment and let me express my full opinion.

Video games, by themselves, do not cause people to be violent.*

Yes, there’s an asterisk. The major studies have not found a correlation between playing video games and violence. And many have tried, very hard.

There may be an argument to be made that games, just like books, guns, movies and poverty encourage people to be violent, but that’s a depth I’m not going into detail here. Encouragement requires many conditions, and often tragedies, to already have occurred. The difference between “cause” and “encourage” is significant. What encourages one person, may not encourage another. Perhaps “entice” is a more appropriate word? None of these things “cause” a person to do anything.

Alas, you didn’t come here for my opinion on everything.

I’d caution any parent to not interpret any study as a free pass to expose their children to just any video game, regardless of the published age ratings. Nor would I suggest interpreting any as advising you against allowing your children to play games. As any parent knows, the maturity of a child can vary greatly from one child to the next.

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An Initial Review of the Impact of Fuel-Efficient Driving During Long Commutes

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Before I get into what this is about, it’s very important that I make it clear that the results I’m presenting here are not final, by any means. The calculations I’m doing are rough and not refined, at all. Consider this more of a “fuzzy” impression rather than an actual result. But these basic calculations still present some interesting findings.

I’ve been waiting a long time to start this post and, originally, I thought it would only be a single post. However, the mathematics to present very specific findings requires some thought and, simply put, I am not proficient in maths.

Consider this a very high-level observation, perhaps more similar to looking at a city from space, as opposed to viewing a house on a specific street.

My final goal, which is not presented here, is to provide calculations that show the amount of fuel, and money, I’ve saved with the savings based on the price of gas at each refueling. That’s not here. Instead, for this post, I’m only working with grand totals and an average for fuel price. And the values that I’ve presented for a couple of “what if my MPG had been lower” scenarios are based on the number of miles that I drove. A true representation of the number of fill-ups would need to account for the fact that I can’t put more than 17 gallons in my car, so if my MPG dropped, I’d actually have more fill-ups.

So, let’s begin.

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