Wednesday, 21 March 2012

08:46 – The Roku box is great when it’s working, but a royal pain in the petunia when it’s not. Around 6:30 yesterday evening, we had a short power outage that was long enough to cause the Roku to reboot. It took me more than an hour and probably 50 attempts before I could get it to reconnect. About half the time, it would pass the first of three steps in reconnecting, “Connect to wireless network”. About a tenth of the time, it would also pass the second step, “Connect to local network”. But it took 50+ tries before it would pass the final step, “Connect to the Internet”. What was particularly aggravating was that I was watching the AP router status screen, which told me that the Roku box was connected to the wireless network 100% of the time, with a very strong signal and at a high data rate.

I would have called Roku tech support, but I learned that lesson the day the Roku arrived, when I had similar problems getting it to connect (the dreaded 014 error). Never, ever call Roku tech support. Roku has the worst tech support of any company I’ve ever contacted, bar none. Their tech support reps are apparently in China, and do not speak understandable English. They work from a script, and their solution is always to demand that you reconfigure your entire network, despite the fact that the network is demonstrably working fine and that the problem is solely the Roku box.

If I ever need to replace this Roku box, it certainly won’t be with another Roku product. Roku sucks.


O’Reilly sent me the draft of the bio book index yesterday. In all the books we’ve done for O’Reilly, I don’t think I’ve ever made even one change to a draft index. For some reason, it just flummoxes me. They want suggestions about adding things that are missing. I can never think of any. They also want suggestions about things that are in there but shouldn’t be. I can never think of any. So I just emailed my editor this morning to say that I couldn’t find anything that needed to be changed.

Right now, I’m working on two web pages. The first is the “landing page” for the biology book. The second is the main page for the BK01 biology kit. Both of those pages need to be tested, up, and working by the time the biology book hits the stores a month from now. Which means I really need to get the biology kits costed out, so we know what to charge for them.


I talked to Barbara the other day about dropping our cable TV and VoIP service from Time-Warner, keeping only Roadrunner. The cable TV service is basic tier, which is essentially just the OTA channels. About the only use we have for them is when Barbara watches sports on weekends. We could get those for free with an antenna, and probably get a better picture. As to VoIP phone service, we’re paying something like $45/month for it, and probably use it an average of less than 10 minutes per day. Although it’s more common among young people, we have several friends who’ve already dropped their landline phone service and gone 100% cell. Given our very light usage, I thought prepaid cell phones would actually be cheaper. Assuming 300 minutes per month between us, which is probably high, prepaid cell airtime at $0.10 per minute would run us only $30, and we’d have the other advantages of cell phones, including each of us having a personal number and not missing any calls.

Barbara’s current cell phone is a Boost Mobile, for which she pays $0.10/minute, so I visited the Boost Mobile site yesterday, intending to order a second phone for myself. I found that, although Barbara is grandfathered in at $0.10/minute, the current prepaid plan is $0.20/minute. So I went off looking for alternatives and found Platinumtel.com. They get good reviews, we’re in a service area with a strong signal, and their prepaid service is only $0.05/minute. So I just ordered one of their phones for myself. If I like it, I may order another one for Barbara.

16 thoughts on “Wednesday, 21 March 2012”

  1. Actually sounds like you might be a good candidate for something like Magic Jack. The advantage is you keep you can keep your existing number and have phones all through the house (cell phone get left in other rooms too often). I’ve been considering it since my wife won’t let me drop our ATT land line. I might actually go with Verizon Home Phone Connect which could drop me from over $50 with ATT to about $20.

  2. I have two MagicJacks and am very satisfied with both. The first is one of the original models which plugs into your computer. I keep that in the laptop case. Anywhere I go, if I have internet connectivity I have telephone service. The other device is one of the newer model, basically a computer on a chip. Plug in into an electric outlet and connect to your router, then run a phone wire to your cordless phone base and you’re set.

  3. I don’t understand why some companies bother to provide tech “support”, when their advice is useless and their employees don’t speak English. Is it legally compelled in some way?

  4. Regarding your problems with the Roku box, I’ve had similar problems with the Motorola black box for a Vonage phone line. I’ve never had to plug/unplug it more than a half dozen times though. After the first two or three times of trying plugging in and unplugging, I leave it unplugged for five minutes or more at a time.

    I’ve never tried to call Vonage tech support, because I’m assuming there isn’t much point. I’m assuming tech support is provided for people who are much less tech savvy than most of us who hang out here are.

  5. Where is your UPS for your Roku and wifi router ? I’ve had a UPS on my DirecTV boxes for ages (and the DirecTV DVR requires about 15 minutes to boot).

  6. Roku is probably going out of business in the next few years, so perhaps money spent on tech support is wasted. Modern devices have streaming built in.

    I spent a couple of hours on Sunday configuring streaming on teevees.

    This person had a roku previously, but she’d upgraded to several flat panel teevee’s with the streaming built in. All but one worked fine via wireless (LG and Sony boxes), but one of the LG’s just wouldn’t connect properly. It turned out that the blueray player (Samsung) attached to that teevee had streaming capability, so I showed her how to use that.

    The capability of the streaming apps varied. All got NetFlix, most got Pandora, and some had nearly as many channels as a current Roku. The “feel” of the app was not quite as snappy as the Roku, but time and evolution will probably fix that.

  7. I got a MagicJack last year and it was amazing.. worked perfectly. I dropped my land line because of it. Happy camper!

    Then they made a driver update. That suddenly dropped quality and also prevented my FAX machine from working with it. I begged MagicJack for the old drivers back, but they said “oh use the latest ones!” over and over. I tried to find old drivers online, and even thought about restoring my entire Windows distribution from a 1 year old backup.. but then I realized how much work it’d be so I gave up and went back to landline.

  8. RBT wrote:

    “As to VoIP phone service, we’re paying something like $45/month for it, and probably use it an average of less than 10 minutes per day.”

    That’s far far too much. Obviously I’m not familiar with the US phone market but there has to be something better on offer. And I don’t consider VoIP to be sufficiently reliable. My Internet connection has been off several times in the last year for days at a time. I still have a land line, I’d drop it instantly if I could, but my cable provider insists on it as part of my Internet bundle. My cell phone is essentially 100% reliable and I get very little in the way of marketing calls on it, unlike the land line.

  9. I’m probably old and grumpy and cantakerous, but when I read such garbage as “1. Health care is not only everyone’s right, but everyone’s responsibility” I roll my eyes and resist the urge to vomit. I wonder,”At whose expense?” Not my problem if you get pregnant — keep your damn knees together. Neither is it my problem if you suffer from malnutrition or anemia: your hunger does not give you a right to my bread; nor does your anemia give you a right to my blood.

    Still and all, this is about the best damn guide to village health care I’ve ever seen. Please pass it along to just one person you might know who can pass it along to some place which might need it.

    http://hesperian.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/en_wtnd_2011/en_wtnd_2011_full.pdf

    And as old and grumpy as I am, I sent them some money — because, well, that’s just what you do. One of those strange contradictions. So sue me. Send them some rupees — or dollars or pesos or euros.

    http://store.hesperian.org/HB/prod/EXTERNAL.html

  10. Neither the cable company here in Tiny Town (I forget who it is, but I checked when moving into Tiny House) nor AT&T Uverse in Tiny Town will let you get Internet only. They WANT those cable subscriptions and fees. I’m surprised you can get only Internet from your cable company.

  11. I used to get land line phone, Internet and basic TV (local free to air and a few other channels no one would pay much for.) I could get video on demand too but never used it. I never paid for “extra” channels. Eventually I gave up on the TV part of the package as I had a perfectly good external antenna. That left me with Internet + land line. I tried to give up the land line, as all it does is attract marketing calls, but they wouldn’t sell Internet without it.

  12. I don’t think I’d want to pick a fight with this Chuck.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-03-22/chuck-the-police-dog-involved-in-malcolm-naden-capture/3906664

    Dave, I’ve told him about some troublesome Vt cats who need to have a few things explained to them. He’s on his way.

    He looks a lot like Colin, but smaller.

    The prick ears are the really intimidating thing, not just to coyotes, dogs, and other Canidae, but also (instinctively) to people. Dogs, Canis lupus familiaris, have floppy ears. But when you see something that looks like a big dog but has erect ears, that’s Canis lupus, a wolf.

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