IR Controlled SPDIF Optical Audio Switch (TNP Toslink)

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I continued dealing with some audio problems after replacing the TV that our son destroyed. The audio output, when routed through the TV from different devices, often had a significant delay when playing via the soundbar. The soundbar received the audio signal over an optical cable from the TV. I tried adjusting numerous audio settings on the TV itself, as well as the connected devices, but no configuration would ensure that all devices worked without a delay (in some cases one device might be good but others experienced problems).

It’s likely that simply using the TV’s speakers would have resulted on no audio lag but that’s simply not why I have a soundbar in the first place. In order to test this problem I grabbed an old optical audio switch out of the closet and set it up with each input running into the switch. It has a single output that I connected to the soundbar. This was a manual switch, so in order to change inputs one had to turn a large dial on the device to physically change the active connection.

Sure enough, it worked without any problems. I decided to order something more modern, that could be controlled via infrared (IR) in order to allow the Harmony Companion system to handle the audio switching.

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After reading through several reviews on Amazon I settled on the TNP Toslink SPDIF Digital Optical Audio Switch with Remote Control and ordered one. We’ve had this in place for a while. The product itself seems to work great but I’ve had some issues with using it in the Activities. Specifically, it doesn’t always change the source input. However, I don’t believe this is a problem with the unit itself but simpy the fact that the IR receiver for the optical switch often becomes slightly misaligned relative to the Harmony Companion IR blaster. I suspect this is the result of my son moving the soundbar from time to time. It may also be in need of some tweaking within the Activity setup as it usually works when I manually change the source via the Harmony Companion app.

Overall, I think it works well and it’s much better than the manual switch I was using. I think it will work perfectly once I take the time to rework parts of the Harmony Companion setup, including the physical location of devices.

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Video Game Tips Roundup

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Over the years I’ve added a handful of posts that feature tips for specific videos games and I thought it might be useful to re-post the links here:

Breath of the Wild: The Man in the High Castle (Entrance Shortcut)

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Note: To pull off this trick you must have acquired Revali’s Gale.

I’ve put several hours into playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. But it’s time to wrap up the core experience so I can move onto other games like Super Mario Odyssey. Earlier this week I completed the two remaining dungeons and over the past night and a half I’ve spent time building up healing items, Ancient Arrows and other inventory items that I guessed would be useful in the final assualt against Hyrule Castle.

But after spending only a short amount of time within one of the lower castle entrances my Hylian Shield broke so I temporarily abandoned my quest and returned to Tarry Town to purchase a replacement. After jumping back to the shrine nearest the castle I decided to try a different approach.

Instead, I ascended to the top of one of the spires guarding the castle boundaries and from there I floated almost to the entrance of the last room with only one short stop on the way. It’s impossible to actually climb the spires but it is possible to stand on the various raised designs that cover their surfaces. By using Revali’s Gale I was able to reach the top with the most difficult aspect simply being the wait-time required for the Gale power to recharge after three uses. I don’t remember the exact number of jumps I used to get to the top but I think it was around four; it required two recharge periods.

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Once at the top I climbed on top of a dead Guardian and from there used Revali’s Gale once again, except this time I aimed for the upper areas of the castle. From the spire that I used I wasn’t quite able to get to the entrance in a single glide. I had to stop on a wall not very far away from the entrance. It was a fortunate spot as it provided cover between two Guardian turrets, one above and to my left and the other off to my right and lower than where I was. I still had another use of Revali’s Gale before a recharge so I used it again and glided past the remaining dangers and right into the entrance and hallway to the last room, where the final battle against Gannon begins.

Having not fought my way through the castle I can only assume that this saved me a significant amount of time, as well as inventory.

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Playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Nintendo Switch

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Note: Minor spoilers about certain items and actions are included here.

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Back in the 1980s I played and beat the original The Legend of Zelda game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was a fun but challenging game and it’s likely that I used a strategy guide to make it through. Sometime later I tried Zelda II: The Adventure of Link on the NES but it didn’t capture me; I did not care for being pulled into battles without any warning when exploring the overworld map and the side-scrolling was just an odd fit.

With the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) I was sucked into the world of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Just when you think you’ve defeated Gannon you learn that not only did you not beat the game but that there’s a whole other part of the game that was nearly as long as the first. It’s remained one of my favorite Zelda games over the years and I thoroughly enjoyed reliving a slightly different experience on the 3DS with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

In the years since I’ve played the many of the Zelda games at some point, excluding some of the handheld editions. While I’m aware that many may have very high opinions of those games, and I certainly can’t say that they were bad, none have captured my attention for very long and certainly not to the point that I thought I might actually strive to finish those games. I spent several hours enjoying The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess when it was released for the Wii but after complete a handful of dungeons I decided to move on.

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I have discovered that, for me, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a very addictive Zelda game that I expect to finish. I have already put in countless hours within a matter of only a few weeks, typically playing late at night. It’s one of those games where you continuously feel compelled to do “just one more thing” before ending a gaming session.

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The Nintendo Switch: Nostalgia Meets Modern Technology

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First the first time in a while I made a large impulse purchase that frankly I had doubts about whether or not I should have done it. Perhaps the jury is still out on that one but I can say, without any reservation, that the Nintendo Switch is an excellent system. Not only do I recommend it to any long-term fans of Nintendo gaming franchises but I’ll go out on a limb to suggest that perhaps the way this system works is the direction that all other console makers should go, if they’re going to insist on developing and maintaining their own hardware. I’m planning to provide some additional posts about the three games that I currently have and why I think they all represent a great mix of nostalgia and modern technology.

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Washing Machine Notification (Smart Energy Sensor & Indigo)

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As part of my recent dive back into home automation I decided it would be cool (and once again practical) to be able to receive an alert that the washing machine has finished washing a load of clothes.

This wasn’t something I blindly jumped into. There is plenty of information on the Web documenting how others have already done this with various home automation setups. As it turns out, at least with our washer, Indigo 6, and an Aeon Labs DSC06106-ZWUS – Z-Wave Smart Energy Switch it can be remarkably easy.

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Mophie Juice Pack Air (iPhone 5)

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The quest for my ideal charging case seems to be an ongoing adventure. For a while I used a Mophie charging case with an iPhone 4. It worked fine until the micro-USB port broke. After that I sent the case off for repair and switched to a wireless charging case. Eventually I ended up with an iPhone 5. A short time after receiving it I ordered another wireless charging case (Duracell Powermat PowerSnap Kit). The newer version also included a snap-on battery pack (that itself could be charged wirelessly).

The case worked OK but it felt clunky and when the battery was attached it was also heavy. Most of my issues with the case were relatively minor but as a whole it was somewhat awkward even though it functioned as advertised. One major annoyance is that a small piece at the base of the case had to be snapped off in order to sync the phone or charge it directly. I also became increasingly concerned that this particular piece would eventually break, thus rendering the entire kit useless until it could be replaced.

Recently I decided to try a Mophie Juice Pack Air with the iPhone 5. So far, I’m happy with it. I can’t say that it’s any lighter than the Powermat kit but at least the battery is always available and, more importantly, I can sync and charge the phone via the built-in micro-USB connection. Unlike the Powermat case, the Mophie case is far more sturdy. It also has a bottom section that separates but it’s a well formed piece that is not likely to break easily.

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It’s a great device though it has one significant flaw. When the battery charges the phone it will not stop charging once the phone reaches a full charge. Instead, it will continue to charge the phone, which can result in one using up the Mophie battery sooner than expected (or necessary).

A nice touch was the addition of a headphone extension cable.

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It may seem like a small thing but I’m already using this. Though the iPhone earbuds plugin just fine, a pair of larger headphones I recently purchased would not work with the case without it.

Updated 02/22/2014: I haven’t been able to sync the phone via the micro-USB connection. I’m not sure if the device is supposed to support this function, if there’s a problem with the battery pack, or perhaps there’s an issue with the cables I’ve tried.

Updated 07/06/2014: The battery still holds a good charge and so far the charging port hasn’t broken off.

Updated 12/31/2014: I’ve stopped using this charging case but only because my work phone was replaced with an iPhone 6. Up to that point it continued to work well and I did not have problems with the USB charging port, as I did with a similar case for an iPhone 4.