Foscam Wireless/Wired IP Camera (FI8918W)

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In September of last year I decided to remove an X10 camera that underperformed beyond my expectations (the same can be said of the software that came with it). I replaced it with a Foscam IP Camera (FI8918W), which is a much better device. The Foscam is a good, all-around IP camera for general use and may work well as a security camera in certain situations. At about $90 it’s a good price for a reliable IP camera.

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Using OS X Screen Sharing with a Mac Not Listed Under Shared

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In some situations you may not see the target Mac listed under Shared in the finder. In addition, this tip is specific for situations in which the Screen Sharing service is known to work.

Connecting is similar to accessing a Samba network share. In this example the target machine’s IP address is 192.168.1.5:

  1. On the Finder menubar select Go
  2. Choose Connect to Server
  3. In the Server Address box type vnc://192.168.1.5 [or your target machine IP]
  4. If you want to save it under Favorite Servers click the plus button
  5.  Click Connect
  6. Provide the appropriate authentication credentials

A while back I posted another tip about enabling and disabling Screen Sharing from a terminal, which can be used to change the status of Screen Sharing remotely via an SSH connection.

Using a 4X2 True Matrix HDMI 1.3a Powered Switch w/ Remote (Rev. 3.0)

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A while back I purchased a 4X2 True Matrix HDMI 1.3a Powered Switch w/ Remote (Rev. 3.0) from Monoprice.com and it’s proven to be a good investment. This switch has four inputs and two outputs. One of the features I’ve enjoyed is the ability to mix and match the inputs and outputs in any way.

For example, I can have the same source go to both TVs or any one of the sources go to different TVs at the same time. The switch has only three buttons on the front. A power button and then two output selectors. Each button press of an output selector (A or B) alternates between one of the four inputs.

It also comes with a very easy to use IR remote for changing the input/output combination. Since we use an IR repeater to control multiple devices from two rooms I went ahead and purchased a spare remote from Monoprice.

In general, the HDMI switch is a solid product but it’s not without its hiccups. There have been a few times when I had to reset the HDMI switch, but so far those events have been very rare, especially when compared to my first, single output HDMI switch. The rare problem I ran into was a very distorted display and perhaps once or twice I wasn’t able to receive audio until I reset the switch. Of the few times I’ve had issues I think I only had to physically unplug the power from the device just one time. Hopefully, problems will remain few.

Before I bought this switch I had an issue with my Philips 32″ LCD HDTV, typically when used with the PS3. It had a tendency to drop the HDCP signal, which is a problem with an DRM content such as video-on-demand. For a while I put an unused 2×1 HDMI splitter in line to boost the signal and that worked. Since I put the new 4×2 in line I haven’t had to use the other switch – it also seems to do a good job of boosting the signal.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the switch, especially when considering that the cost is lower than many other high-end HDMI switches that provide these capabilities.

Updated 08/28/2011: In June of 2011 one of the output ports on the switch died. I purchased a 4×1 switch for temporary use but that didn’t work out. Instead, I went ahead and bought another 4×2 switch (same model). Last week I mailed the defective switch back to Monoprice for replacement.

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

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.

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

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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.

DirecTV HR20 Receiver and RF Remote Issue (Simple Fix) – Part 2

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

I guess my RF remote issue fix wasn’t all that simple. Lately we’ve been plagued with more remote issues when watching TV in the bedroom. I checked the batteries again but those were fine. So, I spent some time searching on Google and hit several posts on SatelliteGuys.US with many similar complaints. Few offered resolutions but one user mentioned that he was able to connect a coax cable to the antenna port on his receiver and then connect the antenna to the cable, which solved his problems.

I just tried the same. It appears to be working better, but only time will tell. I did have a suspicion that the connection may have been coming loose, which is why moving the antenna would seem to fix it. Now I have a short (about 3′) coax cable connected to the antenna port, which is then plugged into a barrel connector that connects to the actual antenna.

Update: Jeez… This may not have worked either. It worked fine when I tested it but when my wife tried to use it we had the same problem. There’s nothing she could have done to change it so I’m beginning to wonder if there’s a problem with interference…

>> Continue to Part 3