My Airport Extreme Base Station Cost Me Another $45 (Because It Couldn’t Do One Thing)

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<rant>

Before I go into the rant I need to state that overall, the Apple Airport Extreme Base Station is a very good residential router, in most cases. In my experience, it’s very stable and most of the features work very well.

But not all of the features… and this one’s a real pain to work with and could be a deal-breaker for many considering purchasing this device. If you plan to use Microsoft VPN PPTP to connect to a system within your network then I suggest that you do not purchase an AEBS.

The description states that it supports VPN PPTP pass-through. Well, I guess that’s only guaranteed for outgoing connections (not specified) or it’s an incompatibility with Microsoft PPTP connections. It would take too long to describe the various forum posts, support documents, and other resources I’ve combed through trying to figure out how to make this work. I’ve spent countless hours trying to find a work-around but I just can’t make it work.

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Using a Terk HDTVO Antenna

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We recently dropped DirecTV and switched to using various VOD services along with a Tivo and a Terk HDTVO. Previously, I had an indoor Terk antenna, which was a step up from the flat RCA indoor antenna we had. The Terk HDTVO performs a bit better.

Part of our problem is that we live almost 40 miles from the nearest broadcast towers (in any direction).

I had tried using the Terk in the attic but it couldn’t reliably pickup more than two of the four stations that we would prefer to have. There are several more stations that larger antennas could pickup (and under the proper conditions the Terk is capable of bringing in more stations from time-to-time.).

This weekend I moved the Terk from the attic down to the pole where the DirecTV dish was installed. Granted, it’s only a few feet off the ground so the position isn’t ideal but at this time I consider it better than sticking it off the side of the house. I was able to use the existing RG6, and assuming the dish was properly installed, then the cable is already grounded, as required.

Reception has improved and most channels that we are able to receive have few drop-outs. The “mast” was obviously cobbled together and at some point I may paint the wood gray to make it blend in better. This location may not be its final mount but for now it will work.

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.

CM15A (ActiveHome Pro) Antenna Boost

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Earlier I was using a CM15A connected to a Windows computer located in the far corner of the house in conjunction with an RR501 Transceiver. The CM15A stock antenna is very weak – it can’t pickup a signal half-way across the house, which is why I had the RR501 setup about mid-way in the house. It did a good job of picking up the remotes (and I never seemed to experience conflicts between the CM15A and the RR501 so it appears that only the RR501 picked up the majority of RF signals).

However, I didn’t care to have a transceiver sitting in a hallway when it shouldn’t have been needed anyway. I decided to look into boosting the CM15A antenna. I tried several suggestions such as placing heavy gauge wire on the antenna or a coat hanger. Several experiments didn’t provide much improvement – the reception may have been boosted from about 10 feet to twenty feet but that wasn’t anywhere near enough to pickup signals on the other side of the house.

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