Long term review of the Terk HDTVa Antenna

I have not written a review of the antenna I use to pick up local HDTV broadcasts. I first used this antenna in 2010 when we were in Georgia. Our place at the time was 30 miles from the television transmitters located just east of downtown Atlanta. Because of the terrain (trees) and distance, I opted for an indoor Yagi antenna with the rabbit ears.

The antenna has been a good performer since 2010 and I don’t plan on changing soon. The new place in California is about 40 miles from Mount Wilson where the television transmitters are located for the Los Angeles area.

Even though the area is different from Georgia and there is more terrestrial interference, the antenna is still a superb performer.

However, due to the interference I had to place an FM trap on the input of the television so FM radio signals would not overload the front end of the antenna circuit. By doing this, the filter lowers the noise floor as seen by the antenna circuit. Televisions from years ago included this FM trap in the television but was dropped after most buyers were using the input for cable television.

Can we improve the antenna? While the antenna is fine as it is, the amplifier has been replaced once. If I have to replace the amplifier again, I would look at the Channel Master Amplify product which is a combination of signal amplifier, FM filter, and LTE filter. The amplifier gain has a low and high setting. For indoor use, the 17dB gain setting should be used.

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Do Something

I have wanted to write a post on this very topic for a long time. These two words together constitutes the most dangerous phrase in the English language. Usually, this phrase appears when there is pain that someone just can’t handle anymore and wants the pain to go away. Then the responsibility falls on the individual receiving the request. This person may be a medical professional, a businessman, or even a significant other. Let’s look at the alternatives to the two words above

Do Nothing – States that the recipient of the request is to not do anything to solve the problem. Usually, this mans that the recipient will just watch and see what happens.

Do Anything – States that the recipient has no constraints for solving the problem. Usually, the recipient can solve the problem no matter the time or resources required.

Now we get to the phrase. “Do Something” implies that there are limits to the request to solve the immediate pain. However, this leaves the recipient with many options. The recipient can look at the situation and elect to do one of the following. One option is to do nothing to solve the problem and let things go. In some cases, doing nothing is the correct thing to do as tinkering with the issue may only make things worse than they already are. This can be though of as the “cure being worse than the disease” which we hear so much regarding certain political issues.

But does this option resolve the request? Usually, the answer is no because the requester wants an action but the requester hasn’t defined the specific action to be taken. In other words, while doing nothing may solve the problem eventually, the requester wants the problem solved within a specific time frame. All the requester knows is that the pain is unbearable and needs to be solved now.

The second option is to “Do Anything” which appears to be very similar to “Do Something” without the implied and unknown constraints. Here the recipient knows what is the problem and has an idea or way to solve the problem but does not know the implied constraints. In the end, the problem could be solved but the requester may not want to deal with the financial or political aftermath of the decisions made to solve the problem. In the haste to solve the problem, some solutions that were supposedly temporary have become permanent and to make the temporary solutions permanent will require even more time and resources to implement. This is why some things are left untouched after a temporary installation because too many people would rely on the temporary solution and not go through the pain of installing the permanent solution.

So the phrase “Do Something” implies limits that the recipient may or may not know about when implementing a solution. In this example, there may be financial or resource restraints unknown to the recipient that only appear AFTER trying to discover the solution. What happens once the solution is implemented? Does the pain disappear?

In a lot of cases, the “Do Something” approach is nothing more than a bandage on a wound that must be removed at some time. The solution does not solve the pain and like a festering blister, increases the pain after a certain amount of time. “Do Something” is akin to short-term thinking where the consequences of one’s actions are not thought out or the consequences are thought out but then the Law of Unintended Consequences appears at the worst possible time. When this happens, the solution appears to increase the pain even more.

So how do we avoid the phrase “Do Something” in our daily lives. When a request is made of us, ensure that all of the constraints that the solution must meet are known and stated by the requester. If these constraints are not known by the recipient, let the requester know that you will do nothing to solve the problem until the constraints are stated. Once everything is known and stated, then the solution can be implemented as desired. While this may work for technical issues in the commercial sector, working within bureaucratic constraints or in the technical sphere may increase the complexity.

Sometimes, it’s just better to do nothing and watch what happens. Remember, one person cannot control all of the actions of others.

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The ultimate guide to OTA Television

Recently, I read this article from our friends and Antennas Direct, which is a over-the-air (OTA) antenna retailer. Basically, millennials in large numbers are learning about OTA television. Some of these new antenna households were not aware of OTA television and in some cases thought it was actually illegal to pick up the signals from the air.

First, a little history. Initially, to receive a television signal an antenna was required. Cable television, or actually Community Antenna Television (CATV) came into prominence in the 1980s and tiers started in the 1990s. By the 1990s, a lot of the OTA television antennas came down in favor of cable TV. This may explain why the Millennial generation is just discovering OTA TV now. But OTA television really took off after the Digital television transition that finished in 2010. Now, the programming on OTA television channels is just as good or even better than what is offered on cable channels.

Examples of these new channels are

  • Channels like MeTV, AntennaTV, RetroTV, Cozi TV, and others showing old television series
  • Movie channels like Movies!, Charge, and others
  • Foreign TV channels such as NHK World (Japan), CCTV (China), and Arirang (South Korea)
  • Ethnic TV channels
  • Foreign news channels such as RT and France24

So how does one get started? First, the television should be digital TV capable. Any television that was made since 2010 should work.

Second, you should know where you are in relation to the transmission towers. Web sites like tvfool.com will give you everything that you need. All you have to do is enter your address and the site will return a report of the available channels in your area and where to point the antenna.

Based on the information in the report, you will then determine what type of antenna you will need. Distance from the towers is key. If you are less than 30 miles from the towers, a patch antenna could be enough to get started. The further away you are from the towers, the more thought that has to be put in to the antenna.

In my case, I am about 50 miles from the transmitter towers on top of Mount Wilson. My antenna setup is a Terk HDTV-a antenna. I also have an FM signal trap to eliminate the FM radio signals before the rest of the TV signals reach the television. If you’re in an urban area, the filter is a good idea. Some amplifiers like this one from Channel Master incorporate the amplifier and filters into the same device. I am planning to use this amplifier when my current TV amplifier fails.

Connect the antenna to the 75-ohm F-type connector on the back of the television. If you have the amplifier and filter, connect the filter inline with the amplifier and then connect to the television.

The last step is TV programming and channel management. Read the owner’s manual to locate the automatic programming mode and let the TV search for channels. With my antenna and amplifier, I can receive about 150 individual channels. Some of them are duplicates. Once the TV has learned all of the channels, then the channel list (may be called “Favorites”) is created by you. This list is the channels that you may want to watch.

If you don’t receive all of the channels you expected in the report, review the antenna orientation. If the orientation does not help, see if you can install an outdoor antenna. Keep in mind that if you use an outdoor antenna, the amplifier will be required and you may want to contact the antenna vendors for assistance. Just keep in mind that while the report says you should receive the channel doesn’t mean that you will receive the channel.

Happy Viewing and enjoy your free TV!

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Sorry I haven’t been here in a while

I just realized that I haven’t posted here in a while. But more is coming.

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Worker Training in an Age of Increasing Automation

In my last post, we talked about the factors pushing businesses towards automation. Many tasks have already been automated, but we are or will reach a critical mass in a few years. For those workers losing their jobs to automation, what can be done?

Some look towards the government for help and job training assistance. However, the government job training assistance has yielded little if any positive outcomes. Either the money gets spread out too thinly and the training is ineffective or the training is obsolete.

Organizations want to get skilled workers but demand outstrips supply in many cases. Some employers do not want to pay for training for fear of losing newly trained employees to competitors.

There are calls for job training and new skills but what are these “new skills” called for by many individuals wanting to help the laid off workers?

The solution to the problem has always been there, but not many people have looked at it for social reasons. For example, some individuals may shun traditional “blue collar” work. Some other individuals would rather stay on unemployment rather than train for a new career.

The solution is vocational school. Decades ago in high school, students would make a choice. The choice would be the college path or the vocational path. Both paths led to a job, but there was an increasing push to get people into college. The reasons for the push are numerous, but many people won’t become good college students. With vocational training, the education and learning leads to a tangible outcome.

For example, welders can earn $50K starting out after two years in school. Other skilled trades like air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical work pay great starting salaries and can later lead to workers starting their own businesses.

We as a nation have to make a decision about the world of work. Are we going to continue to push people towards a college education with immediate obsolescence or build a workforce with jobs that will be immune to automation? The solution is there, but are we willing to embrace it as a nation?

Only time will tell.

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The March Towards Automation

Lately, there has been a lot of press regarding the upcoming march towards automation. Usually these pushes coincide with an increase in the minimum wage. Lately, there has been a push towards a $15 per hour minimum wage which will take place in a few years. If you notice, most of the push for a $15 minimum wage comes from unions who want to increase the wages of their union members and then write in an exemption for unionized businesses into the minimum wage law. But this post is not about the minimum wage or union jobs.

Rather, it is about the increase in automation for certain low-skill positions. These include parking attendants, fast food workers, and so on. Some of this automation has already taken place. For instance, many parking lots now have automated pay stations.

The next big push is the automation of point-of-sale (POS) at the fast food restaurant. The reason is all to clear. A job has a certain amount of economic value, or worth, to the business. If it costs more to hire an employee than the job is worth, the job is ripe for automation. In a fast food place, most of the activity takes place at the drive through window. The order taker can be replaced by an app in the car. Inside, the order taker can be replaced by a kiosk with a credit card terminal.

Is this the first time fast food businesses have experimented with the kiosk? Jack-in-the-Box experimented with the ordering kiosk years ago but it didn’t take off and the kiosks were removed. Some other restaurants are experimenting with the kiosk or the tablet ordering concept (Chili’s) but the results have not been encouraging.

Ultimately, there will be a balance between the needs of the business and the needs of the employees. Will businesses migrate to lower-cost areas? It depends on the nature of the business and where its customers are located. Some businesses may close shop entirely and remove those jobs from the workforce.

What can be done about the workers losing these jobs?

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We have a nominee

and it isn’t Cruz. Ted Cruz bowed out this evening after getting second place in Indiana. Trump picked up the delegates and now the head of the RNC is imploring the party for unity. Even Trump is calling for party unity.

But there is a problem – a big problem.

There are a group of individuals in the party that get paid whether the nominee wins or loses. With Trump, things get very interesting very quickly as he becomes the presumptive nominee. Trump mentioned it tonight about the spending – $8 million versus the $900,000 spent by the Trump campaign. A lot of money was spent trying to stop Trump and what was the result? Another candidate was mathematically eliminated tonight.

Here’s what scaring everyone in the Establishment right now. Trump can’t be bought. He has enough money and doesn’t need a bribe. Plus, Trump is not one of “the club” and is resented. On one hand, Trump donated a LOT of money to politicians over the years. Now, Trump is running for the highest office in the land and has a legitimate shot at winning the election.

Trump can do two things at the same time – become President and clean out the rot in the Republican Party. If he cleans out the pundits and the consultants, it might do the country good.

Let’s get ready for another long, hot summer.

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Trump is the symptom

I have to address the rise of Donald Trump in the presidential campaign. Some may wonder how we arrived at this point. How come there is plenty of anger at the establishment of both political parties? To explain this, we have to look at recent history.

In 1988, George H.W. Bush was re-elected over Michael Dukakis. Dukakis was torpedoed by one ad and one video. The ad concerned Willie Horton, a prisoner on weekend furlough who raped one woman and assaulted her fiancee. As a result, Horton received two life sentences. That was strike one. The video of Dukakis driving a tank may have worked in a different situation but it was that image that doomed a presidential campaign. (See the blues bar scene in Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear. Dukakis is in one of the portraits.)

George H.W. Bush was voted out of office in 1992 over the “Read My Lips” pledge. Bill Clinton was a young governor and voted into office. Within two years, the Republicans took over the House of Representatives and brought in the Contract with America.

The Republican base, feeling great after getting in Newt Gingrich and the Contract, set their sights on making Bill Clinton a one-term president. The Republican Party nominated Bob Dole, an establishment senator. It was “his” turn. Dole didn’t have many appealing qualities in the eyes of the base, so Bill Clinton was re-elected. (It was Bill’s second term that led us to Monica and the famous “is is” statement.) The anger may have started here, but appeared underground during most of the George W. Bush presidency. We now know that issues came to a head in 2006 during the mid-terms resulting in the Democrats taking over the House.

In 2008, Barack Obama faced another Republican establishment candidate, John McCain. Again, it was “his turn” (sound familiar). At this time, the housing bubble popped and caused McCain to suspend his campaign to participate in votes related to TARP. Now, the base was upset at McCain for his votes and was then barely defeated by Barack Obama.

After Barack Obama was inaugurated, the Tea Party was formed by the conservative base to protest policies by both parties. The Tea Party was co-opted by the Republican establishment but by this time, the fire was underway. The fire was fully involved in 2012 when the Republicans nominated another establishment figure, Mitt Romney. By this time, the conservative base realized that their issues would not get an audience. Instead, it was more of the same. Barack Obama was re-elected by a slimmer margin than 2008 for a simple reason – 4 million voters stayed home instead of voting for Mitt Romney. Many reasons have been offered for the number of voters staying home, including Mitt’s Mormon religion. Another reason could be the abandonment of conservative values by the Republican Party.

After the 2012 election and not seeing an economic recovery from the 2008 housing crisis, the anger just exploded and looking for an outlet. The outlet came from an unexpected place – Donald J. Trump. Donald Trump already had media recognition and his speeches struck a nerve with many people. The first one was illegal immigration, and it just snowballed from there. His broad appeal to many people including minority groups initiated a groundswell of support.

Because of the groundswell of support and the change from the status quo from the Establishment point of view, Trump is now seen as a threat to the Establishment of both parties. He’s going after the political class in a way that no one has ever done before. We know what Trump is going to do in office, and it has the professional politicians and the other members of the “political class” shaking. Why are they coming after Trump so hard?

Simple. Donald Trump will end the free ride for many individuals in the political class if he gets into office. One of the most dangerous things in the world is a man whose meal ticket isn’t getting punched.

The Republican Establishment is trying everything it can to deny the nomination to Trump. It’s a rhyme to Barry Goldwater and 1964. Ted Cruz might be akin to Ronald Reagan in this rhyme to 1964. But, 2016 could become 1968 for the Republicans. If Trump can’t win enough delegates to win on the first ballot, then a brokered convention becomes a possibility. If that happens, many of the base will simply walk away from the Republican party unless a serious economic event or a terrorist attack takes place. If one of these scenarios become reality, Donald Trump will win.

If the brokered convention becomes a reality, Hillary Clinton will win the election. The Republican establishment would rather hand the election to Clinton than put Trump into office. It all comes down to money and power. If Trump gets in office, it will be the equivalent of a political earthquake.

The people are restless, angry, and looking for a change. But woe unto the person who becomes President in 2017. The big recession is coming and all that matters is the timing.

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The Verizon Note 5 on Marshmallow

Something must have changed at Verizon recently. Earlier this week, Verizon offered a software upgrade to the Note 5 for Android 6 (Marshmallow). After downloading the update, the phone is better than ever.

The UI is cleaner and the apps seem to launch faster than under 5.1.1. I noticed this was more pronounced with apps that were updated to support the Android 6.0 features. One example of a fast launching app is the Daily Mail app. Other games may launch faster but only time will tell.

I also like the ability to set permissions on individual apps. Android 6 will notify you if the app is not capable of handling permissions under the new scheme. Facebook is one app that will allow you to set individual permissions. This is a good thing for maintaining privacy. I look forward to setting permissions on a lot of apps in the coming months.

I did find a few issues with Marshmallow. One is the removal of the “Car Mode” shortcut. I have not found the replacement yet but I think that the upcoming Android Auto support for several head units will be the solution. Another issue is the app fill permissions. Before checking the password manager, make sure app fill is enabled for your password manager.

As more phones get updated to Marshmallow, I foresee a resurgence in setting app permissions and enhancing privacy for all.

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New Tax Form This Year – 1095C

In the US, the New Year brings tax season. Starting with the 2015 taxes, a new form (1095-C) has appeared. As part of the IRS involvement for enforcing the Affordable Care Act or Obama Care, employers have to report the health insurance status of any employee that worked at a particular company for more than 130 hours a month during the year. Most individuals with a single employer will get one but others will get multiple forms.

The form seems to be simple to understand. The form has the listing for the tax payer, the employer, dependents, and a check box for each month or the whole 12 months. If you changed jobs during the year and you had employer health insurance, you will get two forms in the mail.

Just because you have the W-2 form and are getting antsy about a tax refund, wait a few days for this other form to appear in the mailbox. If you don’t include the form, you could receive a nasty note from the IRS.

Be warned.

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