IR Repeater and Mixing and Matching HDMI Sources for Multiple TVs

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I summarized all of my issues with sending HDMI signals to two different TVs from multiple sources and getting the DirecTV remote working. The page includes my latest solution, which also provides the ability to control all connected devices from either room.

Read: Sending (and Controlling) Multiple HDMI Sources to Two TVs in Different Locations

Utilitech Pro LED 40W Equivalent and an X10 Wall Switch

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Updated 07/12/2011: Many of you seem to be hitting this post while only looking for information about the Utilitech LED bulbs. Well, I only have three bulbs of two different types so I don’t have a lot of experience using different Utilitech LED bulbs.

However, I do prefer the 8W bulb over the 7.5W. I know, it’s not much of a difference in power consumption but there appear to be other differences as well (and there should be considering the 8W cost twice what the 7.5W did). My 8W, Utilitech Pro 40W equivalent  is considerably brighter than the two 7.5W, Utilitech Pro 40W equivalent bulbs. The 7.5W bulbs didn’t even seem as bright as a 40W incandescent while the 8W seems as bright as a 100W.

Everyone else that wants to know how they work with X10 and Insteon, please read on… (a note regarding use with a Z-Wave switch was added to the end of this post on 02/01/2012)

I finally purchased a few dimmable LED bulbs for use at home. Initially, I purchased two Utilitech Pro 40W equivalent bulbs (7.5W) from Lowes. The day I purchased them they were on sale for $10 (marked down from $20), though that turned out to be the regular price going forward.

My intention in purchasing them was to place one in the X10 controlled back porch light, hoping to save a little more power with a light that was often on (sometimes even during the day, though usually unintentionally). I also planned to try one in an Insteon controlled lamp. I also found that even 7.5W is high enough to be activated by the X10 signal that leaks through the wall switch when turned off. I wasn’t surprised. Prior research indicated that bulbs above 5W will not have this problem when used with Insteon devices and that did hold true. However, the light output seemed very poor, even for a 40W equivalent.

Instead I installed both LEDs in a light fixture that I’ve been concerned may carry too much load with normal incandescent bulbs. By replacing two of the bulbs I’ve reduced the power consumption of the fixture by 65 or 105 Watts (I’m not sure if they were 40W or 60W bulbs, but they were probably 60W).

One day about a week later I splurged on a dimmable LED Utilitech Pro 8W, 40W equivalent. It cost $20, twice as much as the others. In the X10 back porch light it still comes on in a very dim mode when the switch is “off”.

However, it is considerably brighter than the other bulbs when on. In fact, I wonder if the light output is closer to that of a 100W incandescent. Since this light only draws 8W when on but is very bright, and certainly uses very little power when in the off position, I decided to leave it in place anyway.

Another added benefit is that bugs do not seem to be attracted to LED lights that I’ve used outside. In fact, I’ve seen fewer bugs on the back porch then when I was using an incandescent bug light.

Utilitech Pro LED Bulb

New LED Bulb

LED bulb at night

Updated 02/01/2012: The bulb worked just fine, with the noted flicker, using the X10 wall switch for the eight months I used that configuration. However, I’ve since replaced the switch with a Z-Wave switch. The Z-Wave switch is more reliable (even with no other modules in the home) and it doesn’t bleed power to the bulb – the bulb no longer flickers when the switch is in the off position.

Preparing to Eliminate Satellite TV

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I’ve tired of the cost of our satellite TV. Initially, it was already expensive with rebates but now that the rebates have expired the cost is just too high to accept. Sure, I could reduce the cost with a lower plan and drop HBO, Showtime, and Starz but then I wouldn’t have much reason to keep satellite. Most of the channels I don’t want are included in all of the plans and each plan drop eliminates channels I do want.

Granted, this move will eliminate the availability of shows we do like but the cost will be more reasonable and we’ll still have a good selection of variety.

Near the end of the month I’ll cancel service. We’ll pay an early termination fee since our 24 month contract isn’t up until September but it should be around $120 or less. That’s a lot of money but it’s about five times less than what we’ll pay over the next few months.

The plan is to have the following in place (all of which are here or have been ordered):

Tivo (~$80 for hardware, $20/month)
Netflix (~$11/month)
Hulu (~$8/month)
Terk HDTVO Amplified HDTV Antenna (~$75)

Overall our bill for services will be under $40/month, which leaves plenty of room for VOD rentals from iTunes, Amazon Prime, and whatever else our various devices support.

The HDMI switch I bought recently is still working great. Part of the two room entertainment plan involves an IR repeater that I also purchased. In the near future I’ll have all of our TV/video systems located in the living room but watchable from there or the bedroom.

Updated 11/12/2011: It’s been about six months since we got rid of satellite TV. Though we’ve considered signing up with Dish Network we’ve decided to keep doing what we’re doing, at least for now. The only reason we’ve considered going back to pay TV is to have access to new episodes of select HBO, Showtime and Stars series. But that’s also a good reason to not go back – this is probably the main reason those networks don’t allow digital distribution of such shows in a timely manner (for example, some are waiting a year before allowing iTunes to carry newer episodes). It’s a deliberate attempt to try to encourage people to not do exactly what we’ve done. But I think we’ll stick with things as they are.

I never had any billing issues with DirecTV since cancelling. However, they continue to send me junk mail and make cold calls from time-to-time, which is very annoying and certainly won’t encourage us to ever go back to them.

We can wait for the good shows to be distributed via other means. As it is, we do have plenty of great shows and movies to watch via local over-the-air channels, Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes.

The moment of joy – packaging the DirecTV receiver for return.
I took several pictures for proof of the condition of the items, which I didn’t need to use.

Cables Unlimited 900MHz Wireless Stereo Headphones (SPK-9100)

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I have a tendency to stay up a bit later than my wife. I also have a tendency to watch sci-fi shows such as Dr. Who on Netflix. My wife didn’t have a problem with me watching such shows late at night, in the bedroom. However, I could tell the noise was bothering her. For some reason many of the shows I watch tend to have quieter dialog and blaring, dramatic music. This included Stargate Universe, before it was cancelled.

A while back I reviewed several wireless headphones on Amazon.com. I wasn’t looking for anything with crystal-clear sound, just something that would sound good and operate on 900 MHz (or above 2.4 GHz) so it wouldn’t interfere with (or pickup interference from) our 2.4 GHz wireless router.

I ended up placing a Cables Unlimited 900MHz Wireless Stereo Headphones (SPK-9100) set into my wishlist. The following Christmas my wife gave it to me!

It’s been a good investment. Every now and then I’ll stay up an hour or two later and watch sci-fi shows that I haven’t seen or wanted to re-watch. The sound is good and the headphones recharge on the wireless base. Whenever I want to watch something I just plug the 3.5mm jack into the television. So far, I have no complaints.

As with most devices in the bedroom I covered the LEDs with some black electrical tape, though I left a slight gap at the top so I could see if the headphones were charging when set back on the base (most of the time I set them on the base but I only charge them after every two or three uses). I don’t actually know how long they’ll last on a full charge because I haven’t drained them completely, yet.

Updated 06/30/2011: As of today this pair of headphones is still working as well as when I got them. I don’t know if the battery life has shortened. On average, I only use the headphones a few nights in a row before I recharge them.

Updated 08/18/2011: It still works just as well.

Xbox 360 and Mac (OS X) Internet Sharing

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Last weekend I was visiting family out-of-town. I brought the Xbox 360 just in case some of us wanted to play. However, I wanted to show some of the arcade games and Netflix, which require live Internet connections. The television was in their living room, a long way from the router in a bedroom. Since I don’t have the wireless adapter for the 360 my only option was to share the wireless via a Mac.

My experience was specific to using an Xbox 360 but these settings will probably work with other devices.

Continue reading

Removing DD-WRT from a WRT54GS v.7 Linksys Wireless Router

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I just lost two and a half hours of my life trying to restore a Linksys WRT54GS (v.7) from DD-WRT to the official firmware. None of the restore/reset options I tried worked during that time. Despite various attempts the router always returned to the DD-WRT configuration.

Finally, I managed to find a solution by installing the VXWorks-revert firmware (via DD-WRT router database) for this router (available on the DD-WRT site for this router’s downloads). After rebooting and uploading the firmware via TFTP the router fell back to a recovery mode from which I was able to load the official firmware (via Web GUI). Starting with the same method using the official firmware never worked until after installing VXWorks-revert.