Tag Archives: cable tv

How to test whether your TV has a digital HDTV tuner in it

If you’re thinking about canceling your cable TV subscription to save money, you might be worried about buying an antenna, only to find your TV isn’t capable of receiving over-the-air broadcasts.

If you live near a major metro area though, you can test it with a one-cent paper clip.

Continue reading How to test whether your TV has a digital HDTV tuner in it

Cutting through the fluff around the Target PIN breach

OK, so Target is back in the news, and it’s nowhere nearly as bad this time but there’s some posturing and some fluff in the news, so I’ll take it upon myself to demystify some of it. Some of it’s PR fluff, and some of it’s highly technical, so I’ll cut through it.

I’m just glad–I guess–to be talking about this stuff outside of a job interview. Like I said, this time the news isn’t nearly as bad as it could be. Continue reading Cutting through the fluff around the Target PIN breach

Hints for surviving if the shutdown put you out of work

I’ve seen plenty of news stories of how the government shutdown is affecting 800,000 or so government employees. What the news stories fail to mention is a large number of contractors are out of work too, until this passes. I can only guess on that number, but there’s no doubt it numbers in the millions, and little doubt it’s in the tens of millions.

As a former government contractor myself, I dealt with losing my job unexpectedly earlier this year, so some tips on dealing with an unexpected loss of a paycheck, even if it’s temporary, are fresh in my mind. There are five things you have to do.

I’m not here to gloat about anything. I’m here to try to help. Some of these things won’t be pleasant, but they’ll reduce pain in the long run if this lasts longer than a week. Keep in mind that everything I’m advocating is something I’ve done myself.

Continue reading Hints for surviving if the shutdown put you out of work

How to save money on tech

CNN offered up some good tips on saving money on tech. But of course I want to analyze and comment on it myself. Anything else would be out of character.

Continue reading How to save money on tech

Speeding up an Acer Aspire One 722

I gave my out-of-box impression of the Acer Aspire One 722 last week. It’s completely unacceptable out of the box, and adequate when you do some basic cleanup on it.

Now I’ve installed an Intel SSD in one and clean-installed Windows, and I’m much more impressed with it. Continue reading Speeding up an Acer Aspire One 722

Advice on scraping by

Here’s a good, timely Google search query: scraping by advice.

I looked, and I’ve never written anything that matched that query well. I know a lot of people are hurting right now. I’ve been in some tight spots and I’ve gotten out of some, so let’s talk about what I would do, on a really practical level, if I ran into another tight spot next week.

Continue reading Advice on scraping by

The Gray-Hoverman antenna

I threw together a Gray-Hoverman antenna tonight. It’s literally two pieces of bent copper wire taped to a piece of plywood, connected with a 75 to 300 ohm transformer like this one, stashed behind the entertainment center. I’ll pretty it up at some point.

This $6 transformer is the most expensive part you need to build a quality antenna

I now get 15 channels of over-the-air TV. With my old antenna, I only got 10.With some tinkering, Antennapoint suggests I should be able to get channels from as many as 9 nearby cities, including, potentially, Springfield IL, and Jefferson City, MO.

I’m definitely hoping to pull in a couple of additional distant PBS stations, since they tend to vary their programming a little bit more. It would be nice to get an additional PBS Kids station, since the local PBS Kids stopped carrying a couple of shows my oldest son liked.

A basic cable TV package only gives you 20 channels, and most of them are stuff you wouldn’t want to watch anyway. And they usually don’t include the extra DTV channels. For instance, the local PBS channel also broadcasts a channel that alternates between home improvement and cooking, a kids channel, and a news channel. All are better than their cable equivalents, and they’re free. A couple of the other stations broadcast syndicated programming on a secondary channel.

I eventually want to build a better one and possibly mount it in the attic or even outdoors. But it’s amazing what 30 minutes with a piece of scrap lumber and $2 worth of wire yielded.

The stunning fall of Mark Hurd

I didn’t believe it when the news broke late Friday that Mark Hurd, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, had suddenly resigned under fire.

Hurd wasn’t flamboyant or a quote machine like many technology CEOs. He just steadily turned HP around, increasing profits, passing Dell in sales of PCs and IBM in sales of servers, and buying companies like EDS and 3Com. He was exactly what investors liked.

In the following days, it turned out there was more to the story.Some people believe the infraction that HP cited for Hurd’s downfall was a cover, that HP wanted him out. The reasons make some sense. The one that resonates with me the most is the logic that Hurd increased profits by squeezing expenses to the bone, slashing the workforce to the minimum, then slashing salaries. Doing more with less, in other words–the mantra of IT during the entire previous decade.

The result? Record numbers of applications from HP employees at competitors. So far, no Steven Slater-style meltdowns, but when demanding more and more while paying less isn’t a good long-term strategy. The Slater story brought attention to this problem and got people talking about it, and it looks like HP may have been a few days ahead of the curve on that.

Other accounts have said employees don’t like working for Hurd and he’s unpleasant toward him. Which lead to some defenders questioning when "being nice" was a job qualification for a CEO.

Well, five years ago I was consulting for a Fortune 500 company. I stepped onto an elevator, and the company CEO stepped on right after me. He extended his hand, introduced himself, and asked me my name, what department I worked in, and what I did there. It was a 30-second exchange.

He stepped off the elevator and literally never saw me again. I don’t know whether he forgot about me the moment I stepped off the elevator, or if he jotted down a note that if he needed a printer fixed he could call Dave Farquhar and filed it away. But unlike a certain very famous CEO, he gave me no reason to fear sharing an elevator ride with him.

And I do think an important qualification of being a CEO is knowing who to call when they need something done quickly and done right. Being friendly is conducive to that. Being ruthless at all times is not. Even Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun knew when to be kind.

Then there’s the question of the consultant. The consultant who had, among other duties, the questionable job duty of "keeping Mr. Hurd company on trips," but with whom Hurd didn’t have an affair (both deny any sexual element to the relationship), and whom Hurd didn’t sexually harass (HP said no harassment took place, and the two settled out of court and kept the terms private). The consultant with whom Hurd concealed $20,000 in expenses in order to hide the relationship.

To a CEO of a multibillion-dollar company, 20 grand isn’t much. Hurd could have paid that back, and he offered. The amount of money isn’t the question nearly so much as the motive. Why did he feel the need to conceal having dinner with one particular subordinate?

The sexual harassment claim gives weight to the claim of it not being a sexual affair. But the job duty of "keeping [any male in a position of power] company" is a common euphemism for something less innocent. I’ve also read speculation that some of this consultant’s past work–namely, acting roles in several R-rated films of the type that gave the cable TV channel Cinemax the nickname "Skinamax"–may have contributed to these expectations.

Some have said that’s blaming the victim. But no means no, and the definition is the same no matter what the person’s job description was for most of the 1990s.

If Mr. Hurd jumped to certain conclusions because his consultant once had a starring role in "Body of Evidence 2," that says more about him than it says about her.

If I remember one thing from my freshman orientation in college, it’s sitting in an auditorium and being told repeatedly that no means no. Regardless of how much she’s had to drink, or what she’s wearing, or what reputation she has for whatever reason.

Since the charge was harassment rather than something else, it sounds like perhaps someone thought a no on Monday might not be followed by a no on Tuesday. That’s better than thinking no means yes based on reputation, but it was still problematic enough to settle out of court rather than try to get it dismissed.

We’ll probably never know HP’s full motivation behind the dismissal. Mark Hurd left over what appears now to be a relatively minor matter of $20,000 worth of incorrect expense reports and a slightly inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, both things that would go completely unnoticed or be easily rectified if it was a different company, or, perhaps, a different person.

The key is to not leave that something relatively minor laying around.