My impressions of the TP-Link TL-WR841N

The TP-Link TL-WR841N (and the similar TL-WR841ND) is a lower-mid range router that routinely sells in the $20-$25 range. Although many people consider it an off-brand, TP-Link has had a following in the enthusiast community for a couple of years. I’ve been prone to recommend them because they have a better track record than many of the bigger-name brands of continuing to release firmware upgrades that fix security vulnerabilities. If you’re going to buy a router and leave it stock, you’re better off with a TP-Link than anything else.

I only used the stock firmware to load DD-WRT on it though, so about all I can say is that the TL-WR841N runs DD-WRT really well. Read more

The Channel Master DVR+ is a cord-cutter’s secret weapon

One of the key things that keeps people from cancelling cable and saving themselves $100 a month is the DVR. They don’t want to lose the ability to time-shift their favorite shows and rewatch favorites during rerun season.

Channel Master has the solution for that: The Channel Master DVR+, an over-the-air DVR that works with any antenna and records shows,up to two at once, to an attached USB hard drive. There are no subscription fees, and you can plug in whatever sized hard drive you want. Plug it in to an Ethernet connection, or plug in a USB wifi adapter (a $40 option) if you want the DVR to pull down TV listings over the Internet for you.

The $250 price could be a bit off-putting, but it’s a one-shot purchase. Once you pay the $250, plus whatever hard drive you attach to it, and the wifi adapter if you want it, you’re done. No monthly fees. No losing your shows if you change plans. And if you want a bigger hard drive, just get a new one and plug it in. And since the hard drive is detachable, it probably means you can plug the drive into a computer and copy its contents to another drive for backup, so if the drive ever fails, you don’t lose everything.

To me, the flexibility makes up for the price. I’ve considered trying to build such a device in the past, but by the time I bought a case, motherboard, CPU, memory, and tuner card, I would be out $150-$200, and then I’d probably have to spend most of a weekend getting it all working together. And after that, there’s no guarantee anyone else in the house besides me would be able to figure out how to use it. Getting something I can just take out of the box, plug in, and let the family use is worth a bit of a premium.

And besides, even if I sunk $400 into the thing, that’s four months of cable.

I’m not exactly sure when the DVR+ will be available, but if I can buy one this summer, I intend to.

Advice for upgrading from a CRT to an LCD

Like a lot of people are doing these days, my brother- and sister-in-law replaced a CRT TV with an LCD. I helped my brother-in-law hook it up last weekend, and we got it working, but probably could have done things a little bit differently.

A lot of inexpensive LCDs have a limited number of inputs in order to meet a price point, and that’s what we ran into. The LCD had just as many inputs as the TV it replaced, but with some cable shuffling, we would have been able to make the new TV easier to use.
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Things I wish I’d known about AT&T U-Verse before I signed up

Things I wish I’d known about AT&T U-Verse before I signed up

As I wrote earlier this week, I’m a new AT&T U-Verse customer. Prior to that, I was using old-school POTS with a DSL connection. Between the phone service, DSL, and long-distance calls, I was spending around $75 a month. So it looked like I could switch to U-Verse with the 250-minute voice plan and 3-megabit Internet, save some money, and get a bit of an upgrade in connection speed.

I was mostly correct.

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Remembering 11 September 2001

I was on my way to work when they said on the radio something was wrong. The details were scarce, but an airplane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. Then the other. And as I was pulling into the parking lot, the news came that one of the towers had collapsed.

The day didn’t get any better as it wore on. I remember it well. Looking back at what I wrote on that day, some details faded over the decade, but my recollection of most of the day is vivid. I can tell you more about that day than I can most of the days of the past week.

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How to connect an Amiga to a TV

Amiga monitors aren’t always the easiest thing to come by. Of course just about every Amiga sold was also sold with a monitor. But sadly, many of the monitors weren’t as reliable as the computer. So being able to connect an Amiga to a TV helps.

There are several options, and while some are far from ideal, most of them are suitable for playing video games. And these days I’m sure you’re a lot more interested in Shadow of the Beast than you are in Amiga Word Perfect 4.1. Read more

Top posts of 2010: A retrospective

I don’t normally do this, but then again, I’ve never had these kinds of statistics at my disposal either. So I’m going to take a minute to look back at the most popular posts of 2010, and pontificate a little about what I think each one might mean.

I really only have good statistics since October, so it’s a little unfair, but incomplete stats are better than none. I see some interesting patterns in what people ended up reading, some of it surprising, some less so.

We’ll take it from the top, rather than like a DJ.

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Missing the playoffs because News Corp. and Cablevision are greedy? Build an antenna!

So Cablevision and News Corp are arguing about money, and the result is Fox is dark on cable in New York and Philly tonight, and for the foreseeable future.

Build an antenna. No, seriously, build an antenna.

Over-the-air HDTV looks better than cable, because they have to compress and recompress the signal in order to bring you those 432 channels nobody ever watches. And DTV reception isn’t like it was in the analog days. With a good antenna design, reception is much better than it was a few short years ago. Build a Gray-Hoverman antenna out of $10 worth of readily available materials, and you’ll never miss a local broadcast again. In fact, you’ll probably wonder what’s wrong with your cable provider.

And yes, Game 1 of the NLCS is a pretty good game so far. Definitely not worth paying to miss.

Rupert Murdoch delenda est.

What to look for in a router

I revisit the topic of what to look for in a router every six or seven years. As important as it always was, I think it’s even more important today, as there are a number of underpowered routers on the market and it’s best to avoid them.

This post originated in 2010. I revised it for 2017 needs, and by the time I was done, I’m not sure much of my 2010 text was left. But that’s OK.

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