How To: Recover Missing Digital Channels like CHCH, CTV, CFTO

If you've made the switch or never stopped using an antenna it has been 'no bills and no problems' for a long time, that just changed. Ok, the no bills part is the same but if you've upgraded any of your antenna systems to UHF only to focus on those weak pre-transition signals then there is a problem. I count myself among the fools that stuck to a UHF only antenna, but there is a fix.

Buy or build a VHF antenna.

Alright, it seems too simple but there are plenty of 'but my antenna is on the roof and now I don't want to go back up'. The post transition signals are usually strong enough to reach some old indoor antennas, but don't quit on your trusty outdoor one just yet.

Split it with a 'FM Antenna'

Buy the following from an electronics or radio store like 'The Source'.

  1. Twinlead FM Antenna (Appx $8)
  2. 300 to 75 Ohm Balun (Appx $4, this will interface between the two wires on the antenna and the splitter)
  3. The cheapest looking POS coax splitter you can find that keeps a solid connection

Splice this 'hack' as close as possible to the TV or Receiver. Run a channel scan and if it worked that's good - if not try the following. The FM antenna needs to be up as high as possible and not touching any metal, try to hide it behind the TV but dont let your 'T' become a 'V' or a '^'. If you lost other channels you normally had try either disconnecting the balun from the splitter or using a better signal amplifier. (You want perfect signals, it takes some good tech and some good work).

If you're still not satisfied, throw your TV out a window. If it can't catch the signals, maybe the signals will catch it. Then buy an AM radio and complain about how that will probably 'go digital' too.

Keep Your Cell Phone Number Secret While Texting with Twitter

It's tough to keep cellular bills down when more people use these devices more often. For most people it is no longer an option to use a cell phone, they are ubiquitous. If you want to keep your prepaid bill low in Canada then follow these simple instructions and encourage your tech savvy friends to participate too.

Please note you will need a cell phone and a Twitter account for this to work. Once in your Twitter account you can activate a number of SMS features, which will send you a text message when someone mentions you in a Tweet. This is a great start. Confused? Follow along:

Sign in to Twitter click on your acount name in the top bar;
Go to settings and click on the mobile tab;
First you'll follow the onscreen instructions for linking your phone;
Configure how much and when you'd like to receive messages.

Now that you've got your phone and Twitter account linked you can pass information to other Twitter users with ease. In fact there is an entire shorthand for sending SMS Texts to twitter, which it will inform you about if you need to reply. Enjoy the experience.

Afterward you may notice that while it is nice that when people (especially people you just met) can message you it would be great to follow all of their Tweets. There is a fast and easy way to do that on each user that you follows Twitter page. Right next to the follow button you can click on a much smaller button labeled "Tweets from this user are not sent to your mobile phone", afterward the Tweets from that user will be sent to your mobile phone.

Problem Solved.

Electric Banking: Option or Obsession?

Change is coming to your electricity bill, especially if you live in Ontario as local utilities move to new metering systems. The promise with "Time of Use" (ToU) billing is that you can receive an electrical discount during the time of day that rates are low - in some communities during the night when large stores and factories shut down and in others at night when electrical heating devices and consumer electronics come online. It doesn't really matter which community you are in because there is always the possibility that most users will fail to see the incentive.

Banking is a common practice among those of us that use solar electricity, store a surplus during the day and use it at night. Some solar users underestimate the surplus required leading to 4am blackout, which is frustrating before a busy day. This is an issue for people on and off the grid, power is stable while the price typically isn't stable. So adopt solar energy while the prices are good with a grid-tie inverter and energy bank.

Most energy banks are composed of batteries, and its best to stick to that while the mad scientists figure out how to build a cheap electrolysis and fuel cell combo. During the cheapest hours it will bank as much energy as possible and if you know when the pricey hours are you can switch over to lower rates. It can be quite expensive at first. If you do it right this will become an investment - with a return. If you pay down the energy bank through your financial institution you can count new use as a gain.

Seems a little too easy right? Thats why there are some barriers in different regions. Some places have laws against electrical banking and storage, this mostly relates to their practices at the generating level and their attempt to predict and chart energy use. Also this is potentially a weapon against predatory billing systems, which some utilities use as a crutch to prop up a defective system. Allow me to explain how banking helps in three ways. Energy Banking lowers your bill. Energy Banking lowers system demand during peak times. Energy Banking opens the opportunity for the best kind of privatization - the DIY kind. If you live in one of these areas or not, ask your local politicians to protect your right to generate, store, and buy electricity freely.

Grid-tie banking will still have additional government, business, and "misc" surcharges unrelated to your consumption. These flat rate fees continue until you can pull the plug. Some of these fees are justified for a power grid, and these fees didn't exist when public funds went toward energy infrastructure. The consumer is now losing money and paying more whenever someone wealthy goes off the grid. Of course these fees are small, and they add up over time. To illustrate, a bucket can be filled drop by drop fairly quickly. Drop the fees off of your electricity bill and save money by making improvements to how you are delivered energy.

Here is the process: Shave off $10 a month, is $120 a year, and on a street with 20 houses that's $2400 a year, in a city of 50000 that is $6 million a year or $60 million a decade. Now think of your whole $67 average bill being gone. Considering the number of high demand energy users this could be more than a billion dollars that people and businesses in your city saves after liberating itself from recurring electricity costs from outside.

If your utility chose to use solar electricity, and banked it, and returned to a flat rate billing system then you wouldn't need energy banking for your house and they could save money. It is unlikely that utilities will without special grants for capital projects. Even then it has been pretty tough to even start a public project with the growing number of NIMBY groups. Again, if you want it done right (or at all) then you should do it yourself.

This solution may seem be for idealists, and capitalists, and people looking to liberate public funds (cut taxes or balance the budget). if you don't want to save money, make jobs, or liberate your local economy from energy companies - you can decide that doing nothing keeping your bills high is right for you. Some people pay more than $100 per month for celluar service too because they love paying more.

Additional Note: For the people concerned that disconnecting from a local utility will lead to higher fees - fight for the other extreme with "free" electricity entirely paid for by local and other governments with no bill. Every house that joins an affordable local energy group can reduce costs for those less fortunate. The establishment of an energy quota is now possible with the advanced power monitoring systems. Think of it as 'pay as you go' for electricity. I've published this article because it is time to use technology to reduce how much we pay. Businesses and individuals can operate faster than most governments for the time being by choosing to ignore the buzzing NIMBY swarm.

Great Read: Jennifer Government

Jennifer Government

Many years ago I started an account on NationStates (http://nationstates.net), this was a great way to see the humour behind some political and business decisions. The simulation itself is a promo for the book Jennifer Government by Max Barry. It is a great book. The funny, action packed and intelligent story takes you into a super privatized world. I don't want to give away too much, no spoilers here.

Think of it as Brave New World without all of the pharmaceuticals and 'recreational love'. It's very much about getting your pay and how it can all go wrong. I appreciate the character Violet because she seems representative of many of the young people today with amazing skills but little experience making it pay off (despite being promised a payoff).

The parallel adventures of the many characters in the book means that the story doesn't hinge on one situation or one personality. Government, Business, Paramilitary, Education, Finance and of course the slackers are all accounted for in this book. Just about everyone except gainfully employed factory workers and non-religious medical staff are analyzed. Although when the religious medical practitioners are involved they are about as helpful as a post unless you have an amazing credit rating.

If you're looking for a good book then download this book from your favourite vendor and help put the pulp and paper industry out of business too.

BBQ Cupcakes by Lauren Souch

I want to share this post about BBQ Cupcakes, a part of the 'She Bakes' series by Lauren Souch. Her website LaurenSouch.ca (http://laurensouch.ca) features an odd assortment of rants, guides, and recipes. Even if you don't personally know Lauren I'd recommend her blog as a good read to remind you that things don't have to be complicated.

These cupcakes are made from a standard 'golden white' cupcake, short cupcake brownies, and some coloured icing. The article also features an ice cream cone cupcake, which seems nice but being the dedicated waffle cone guy that I am the flat bottom cones seem out of place. (Flat bottom cones are also what some of the local animal facilities use as cups for seeds to feed the animals.) Aside from personal preferences they both taste great.

Also check out the Maple Bacon Cupcakes on the She Bakes pages. Now the links:

BBQ and Ice Cream Cupcakes: http://laurensouch.ca/2011/05/29/bbq-cupcakes/
Maple Bacon Cupcakes: http://laurensouch.ca/2011/02/07/super-bowl-mancakes/

MS IE9 Still No Gradients in CSS

I've been trying out some of the new CSS3 items for a while now, just getting used to seeing how the linear-gradient and webkit-gradient tags work. In IE9 (Internet Explorer 9) there are still no CSS tags for gradients, and the filter tags have been causing errors in FF4 (Firefox 4). Understandably the inability to process the CSS file is a FF4 problem, but the immediate solution is not to stop using gradients for capable browsers. Instead I'll be pulling the IE tags and running a workaround for the only major browser that cannot do text shadows or properly formatted gradients.

For a very long time I've been in web development heaven, having to worry only about adding features. Now the design conundrums are back. On the plus side I can reduce the bandwidth requirements for the site by using CSS rather than PNG files, which required an obscene amount of time for setup and rendering. (Obscene to a developer, maybe not to a designer. Those people love long wait times)

In any case if you're swapping between browsers wondering why the website keeps looking more/less colourful now you have your explanation. Not that it really matters, all of the information is still here. Waiting.

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