DirecTV HR20 Receiver and RF Remote Issue (Simple Fix) – Part 3

Updated 05/25/2011: Save yourself time, money, and frustration by checking out my latest solution.

Well, something seems to have worked. I’m down to three possibilities.

(1) Batteries were low

(2) HDMI to Ethernet Extenders were causing interference

(3) Antenna connection was loose.

I think I can rule out #3 since it still seems to be responding better than it has for a while. If it was the antenna connection then I would have seen the reliability change from time to time. I don’t think it was #1 because I had previously swapped out the batteries though I went ahead and changed them again just in case I happened to have a bad set on the last change. The other, and perhaps more likely possibility, is that the HDMI to ethernet extenders were causing RF interference. Since the extenders were sitting up next to the antenna this would have been a problem if they did generate RF interference. To eliminate this possibility I swapped out the short HDMI cable going from the extender to the DVR with a six foot HDMI cable.

At the moment it seems to be working fine. Of course, it may not after I’ve published this update.

Dimming a Mac Screen Beyond Apple Parameters

Every now and then I wanted to be able to dim a MacBook Pro screen more than could be done with the keyboard or OS options. I recently found a free utility that will help me deal with the Mac “flashlight” at night. It’s free and works great.

One caveat – there’s a reason Apple didn’t provide this fine grained control. As the screen is less illuminated the contrast is greatly reduced, so it can be much harder to read the screen.


Why is Science so Bad in Movies and Television?

I’ve been a fan of science fiction since before I could read. A long time ago I discovered that the best science-fiction was usually only found in written form. Sci-fi movies as a whole are typically riddled with bad science along with horrible plot holes (many of which are tied to the bad science). I suppose I’m a bit of a hardcore sci-fi snob.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy sci-fi movies or shows that aren’t based on real science. In fact, I really enjoy some of the odd or silly sci-fi movies including The Fifth Element and Doctor Who. But I’m often frustrated because stories that are classified as sci-fi are really sci-fi/fantasy or just plain fantasy. The Star Wars universe is a good example. Much of it is great (I grew up watching the original movies over and over again) but they’re littered with elements of fantasy. (Even one of my favorite series, the original Dune novels, is sci-fi with fantasy elements.)

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Are You Lion? I Smell a Tablet in the Works

Apple’s recent announcement of OS X Lion seemingly criticized the concept of a touch-screen interface on a notebook. However, while making it clear that a touch-screen on a standard notebook doesn’t make sense, the possibility of an Apple tablet was never actually excluded.

I believe there was a lot of misdirection presented and Lion seems to be the proof. For a desktop OS the new App Store enhancements, which oddly enough aren’t specific to Lion, don’t really make as much sense unless thrown into a tablet.

So… my guess is that Lion is laying the foundation for an Apple tablet in OS X. I also have a guess how Apple might make it work. The company is known for making elegant solutions, so if it does make a tablet it will be easy to switch between notebook and tablet modes.

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A Good, Inexpensive Pair of Headphones (JVC HA-S150-RX)

I wasn’t happy with my current headphones and earbuds.

One pair of headphones was bulky and only sounded good when I turned on the noise-canceling feature, but it was susceptible to interference from my iPhone.

The other pair was about as cheap as headphones come. The earbuds were uncomfortable to wear over extended periods and did not have impressive sound.

As a result I started shopping around for an inexpensive pair of headphones in the $15-$30 range. After searching and reading several reviews I came across a pair of JVC HA-S150-RX on I had read positive reviews for similar models and good reviews for the same model at other sites so I decided to order two pairs. One for myself and one for my wife.

The new headphones arrived today. I’ve enjoyed using them. They’re very comfortable to wear, have a small profile, and sound good. Overall, they seem like an excellent bargain for the cost.

Updated 01/27/2012: This same pair of headphones still works just as good as when I bought it.

One Reason Why USPS Tracking Numbers are Sometimes Invalid

I’ve ordered from Amazon recently and sometimes I’ll receive a USPS tracking number that doesn’t work when used on the USPS Website, even though the info was updated within Amazon itself. The answer to this problem is very simple. The items aren’t actually being shipped the entire way via USPS. Sometimes they’re sent most of the way via FedEx. If you plug the same tracking number into the FedEx Website you will probably find the most current info.

When items are shipped this way they can be tracked via FedEx until they reach your local post office.

Sending DirecTV to Two Televisions (Part 5)

Updated 05/25/2011: Save yourself time, money, and frustration by checking out my latest solution.

I went back to to update my review of the HDMI switch that I’m using and while glancing at the product page I saw this:

Note: With most models of Televisions both displays will need to be powered on for the splitter to function properly.

I don’t know if that note was present before I bought the switch but basically it means the problems with it dropping the signal are expected unless both TVs are left on. As a result, this means I’d need to get a different splitter to get around this problem.

I’ve spent enough money over the past couple of months on this project. Perhaps in the near future I’ll follow-up with a new purchase but at this point I’m resigned to just swapping the HDMI cables for the bedroom and living room TVs directly in the DirecTV HDMI output. It isn’t as convenient but it should work.

Update: I’ve changed the connections. I’ve seen two very brief drops but both times it picked up again without having to do anything.