What do 24, IR remotes and Bell have in common?

Like many people, we still use a VCR. No TiVo or Digital Recording device, nor fancy computer setup to record out television shows. Just a VCR. Maybe you don't know what a VCR is? It is an ancient device from times past that allows one to record analog television signals onto a magentic tape, for playback at a later time on a television. VCR's were first introduced in 1972 by Phillips and became quite widely available in the 1980's.

Last night while watching the recorded television show "24" with Kieffer Sutherland, we got tired of having to jump up and fast forward our VCR everytime a commercial came along. Your thinking "Why the heck doesn't he use the remote control" to which I say "We lost the remote control." So, while sitting watching the show, and twiddling with my satellite dish remote, a thought occurred. Hey, my satellite remote is programmable, since we have the TV, satellite receiver and Stereo (not 'Home Theatre') already programmed. The problem when we first got the satellite about 5 years ago, was that our VCR was so old it did not appear in the list of programmable VCR's, and since back then we still had our remote, we really didn't have a need to program the satellite remote.

After my legs were worn out from racing to and from the TV throughout 2 hours of "24"--which incidently is only about 88 minutes once the ads are taken out--I went to my large box of instruction manuals and warranties. After a thorough search I realized that we no longer had the instruction manual for our satellite setup either. Luckily this is the age of the Internet, so I sat down and used our trusty Google to do a search for our satellite dish and IR remote model number. Well, if you have ever searched for anything to do with satellite dishes on Google, then you know all too well that Google simply returns hundreds and hundreds of crappy spammish index/search engine sites with no information on them what-so-ever. Luckily for me, the company we pay to have our satellite signal from "Bell Canada Express Vu", had the answer.

Below are the instructions on how to program your IR Remote, model Number 103781

Within 2 minutes, actually 6 years and 2 minutes, I finally got that VCR button on my IR Remote to do something useful. Just a shame that the remote is so old that those top four buttons hardly work anymore. grin

Steps to program your remote control to operate your TV, VCR, Home entertainment system.

  • 1. Turn your TV/VCR/Home Theatre on.
  • 2. Press and hold the TV or VCR or Aux mode button until all the other mode buttons light up.
  • 3. Press the blank POWER button. (If your remote only has one POWER button, press that one)
  • 4. Press the UP ARROW button repeatedly until your TV turns off. Don't do this too fast you you will need to start over again, if you click past the right setting.
  • 5. Press the POUND (#) button to confirm.

That's it. I did the above and now my remote happily saves my legs when watching my recorded shows.

What does an Apple G5 cost the environment Part I

No no, this is not an article about how much land fill is being created by Apple. Nor is this about how much toxins are being dumped into our soil by Apple. This is Part I of a blog on the power consumption of my computer. Why am I doing this? Simple: I bought a new toy!

kill-a-watt.jpgShiny new and clean, my Kill A Watt arrived today by Canada Post. I know, most of you are asking, what a “Kill a watt” is? A Kill A Watt is a handy little device that measures how much energy is being used, by whatever is plugged into it.

These are the people who make the Kill A Watt:
P3 International
And I purchased it from a Victoria, British Columbia, Canada company:
Energy Alternatives

What does a Kill A Watt do blurb from the manufacturers website:

Connect your appliances into the Kill A Wattâ„¢, and assess how efficient they are. A large LCD display counts consumption by the Kilowatt-hour just like utility companies. You can figure out your electrical expenses by the hour, day, week, month, even an entire year. Monitor the quality of your power by displaying Voltage, Line Frequency, and Power Factor.

My first big test will be my Apple computer system which is comprised of the following:

  • Apple G5 Dual 2.7GhZ
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 2 x 250GB Hard drives
  • 20 inch Cinema display
  • Epson V350 Scanner
  • IO Gear MiniView KVM Switch
  • Viewsonic 15 inch LCD screen
  • 1 USB keyboard

My main goal is to see how much energy my computer uses at night, while it is sleeping. Sometimes it sleeps, and sometimes it just wanders around aimlessly, pretending to sleep. None the less, I want to see just how much I spend each night on my insomniac computer.

So stay tuned for the results of my computer test. In the meantime, here are the readings from a couple of other household items I tested:

Household volts: 117.0 to 122.1
Hertz: 59.9 steady

Toaster: 670-690 Watts, 7.3 amps.
Coffee maker when idle - 0.03amps, 0 watts.
Vacuum cleaner: 1024 Watts, 9amps.

Cost of electricity here in Quebec (figures are approximate):
Daily service fee: 0.406 dollars per day
First 30KW each day: 0.0522 dollars
Extra usage: 0.063 dollars per day

picture-4.pngAll of our electricity in Quebec comes from Hydro Dams. Though we are told that wind will be a producer of electricity at some point soon. Unlike parts of the US, Canada and Europe, pretty much ALL of our power lines are above ground. Which was a major contributing factor to the severity of the Great Ice Storm of ‘98.

The above picture was used without permission, from this site. If this is not okay, please let me know and I will take it down.

What is the true speed of Videotron’s multitiered bandwidth packages

Do you ever really get the advertised bandwidth from your ISP? Read on to see how far off Videotron’s advertised bandwidth was compared to what I actually got.

Three weeks ago, my ISP Videotron called one day as a courtesy call, to see if everything was okay. I told him over all yes, I am happy with their service. While I was on the phone with them I treated myself to an early present and got the Extreme High Speed Internet connection from Videotron which is listed as being 10Mbps/900Kbps for $64.95 a month with unlimited bandwidth. Currently I had what Videotron called High-Speed Internet which is listed as being 7Mbps/820Kbps for $54.95 a month with a cap of 20GB/10GB. Having checked my usage online, I saw that I never came too close to my cap so bandwidth was not an issue here.

During the week between Christmas and New Years, I like to take a few days to clean up my office and test a few things out, that normally I would not pay any attention to. One such item that popped up was about the actual throughput of my connection to the internet. Especially now since I was paying for Extreme High Speed. A friend on iChat told me a little story about how he just realized after two years, that even though his connection to the Internet was supposed to be 8Mbps he was only getting 5Mbps because his router was capped his throughput. He removed his router and poof, he suddenly started to get what he was paying for. This is where my fun begins.

Hmm, I thought. I am paying for 10Mbps from Videotron in Montreal, let me check what I am actually getting. I hopped on over to SpeakEasy’s speed test and tried all the cities they list. Not one went over 5700Kbps. Well I thought, they are from different cities, perhaps it is a slow day, or perhaps my router was limiting me. With a few small changes in wiring, I quickly connected my computer directly to my Videotron modem, and for good measure, restarted my modem and computer. I then went back to SpeakEasy to see my incredible jump in speed which I had been missing out on. Strangely enough, there was no speed improvement. The fastest connection I could get was New York at around 5700Kbps… again. To get a better idea of my true speed I figure it was best to try Videotron’s own speed test. For sure I should be able to get closer to my promised 10Mbps speeds. Once again, I could only obtain around 5500Kbps top speed.

At this point I figured Videotron had just not switched whatever they were supposed to switch, to allow me to get my true speed improvements. So I called up technical support at Videotron. Being a holiday I did have to wait a few minutes for a tech to come online. I explained my problem and was told he could verify everything right away. After about a minute technical support came back online and said everything looked fine and that I could just be experiencing a slow Internet day. I told him of the tests that I had performed including using Videotron’s own speed test. The tech found this a little unusual and asked me to download a 10MB file from their own FTP server. Supposedly this file should download at close to the full 10Mbps speed I was promised with this Extreme High Speed Internet package. I pointed my browser at their FTP site and downloaded the 10MB file. The tech was correct, it was downloading faster. I was now able to get a full 7300Mbps top speed. But this was still not close to the 10Mbps or 10240Kbps top speed I was promised. The tech sounded a but stumped and asked me to wait while he asked a level 2 tech if there were any issues with the internet in my area. After about 2 minutes the Videotron tech came back and told me everything was normal in my area. As a side note, in those two minutes I had changed my ethernet cable just to be sure I was not experiencing a bad cable. No difference.

At this point the tech told me that there was really nothing more he could do, and that my top speed was pretty typical for my type of connection. Pretty typical I thought? So I said “So you are telling me that with Extreme High Speed Interent which is supposed to be 10Mbps, I will only be able to get around 5Mbps?” The tech responded with, “It looks like it.” I explained to the tech that I saw no point in paying for the Extreme High Speed Internet connection when I got the same thing from the High Speed connection. The techs only answer was “But you do get unlimited bandwidth from the Exteme High speed.”

Anyhow, to wrap the rest of the story up, I asked to be transferred to Videotron’s Customer Support where I quickly explained the situation to them, and downgraded my account to the regular High Speed Internet package.

Before posting my story I wanted to wait a day and try my speed tests again. Strangely enough, now that I am back on the normal High Speed Internet package, my speeds are exactly the same as they were when I was on the Extreme High Speed package. With the exception of my uploads, they have dropped from around 802Kbps down to 790Kbps, so no great loss here.

The whole point of me writing this, is to get you to check your High Speed or Extreme High speed connection and see if you are really getting what you are paying for. If you are paying for Extreme High Speed then you should actually get that Extreme High Speed, and not fifty percent of the cap. These tests will also help you to ensure that you don’t have a router sitting between you and your cable modem that is slowing you down unnecessarily.

Something that pops to mind right now is: Is there any type of check in place to ensure that ISP’s give you what they tell you in their ads? That is, if they tell you that you will get 10Mbps, is there any legal body that will check that they are actually giving you that speed? Perhaps the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
checks those things here in Canada? Or maybe the Competition Bureau of Canada covers this?

{deprecated} PalmOne Treo Error 0x7301

I just got a PalmOne Treo650 with my Bell account here in Quebec. Shortly after I got my new phone I started getting the error ‘Error 0X7301’ whenever I tried to connect to the internet.

After some searching on google, I came across the rather simple and straight forward solution. Here is the site I found the solution on: http://www.howardforums.com/showthread.php?threadid=899093

And here is the solution:

Goto the main application screen by pressing on the Home button, select Prefs and then Network under Communication. Beside where it says service at the top of your screen, you will probably see ‘1X Connection Copy’. This means that at some point I made a copy of my connection, which is not good apparently. Simply delete the copy by selecting Delete from the menu at the top. Click on Done and that’s it, your done!

You should now be able to connect to the internet again!

Albeit short and simple little how-to, I hope it helps someone else.

Billing software for hosting - a winner!

For a few years now I have used Modernbill’s hosting billing and management software for all my hosting. It has not come without a lot of issues and quirks. Problem was, each time I got a quirk I ended up having to pay Modernbill to get the quirk fixed. More often than not the problem wasn’t actually fixed, instead I was just given a work around to keep the software going.

Well, a few days ago I sat down to send out an invoice. That, in theory should take about 10 minutes, including writing in the details and ensuring everything was correct. Then click send and off I go to do my other work.


I clicked send and got a Failed message from Modernbill’s cache. Those of you who have used Modernbill probably know what I mean, or so all the forums say. So I checked all my bits and pieces out, they looked good, tried again. No go.

So I started down a path that was 2 hours long. This path is that all too familiar trouble shooting path of searching Google, reading posts, trying things and full circle back to Google. Finally, after my forehead turned black and blue from pounding it on the desk, I sent a trouble ticket into Modernbill.

Their response, “Should take less than an hour, so $75 will cover the fix.”

Two years ago my response to that email would have sent shivers down anyones spine, and I would have resulted in me been told to piss off. But no, I kept my cool and sent back a nice response explaining my situation, and exactly why I was against paying anymore money.

They responded with a nice email that said they understood my dilemma and a win-win solution would be to buy a 6 month support plan, and then they could fix the problem. Yeah, that is sorta of win win, but I lose my money still. Keep in mind that at this point I have now spent close to $300 on a software package that never really did everything it was supposed to. At least I couldn’t get it to do everything it was supposed to.
At this point I am late for a breakfast date with the wife, but still in a fowl mood not worthy of breakfast. Back to Google. This time on a trek to find a replacement program for my online billing needs.

I should interject here that I only use the billing software to handle subscriptions, fast invoice sending that is to be paid by Paypal, and in theory to keep track of my profit margins.

After less than 30 minutes I found a pretty slick looking replacement app. Albeit only for cPanel, and I have Ensim, but as I mentioned two seconds ago, I don’t manage the actual server with this software. Not yet! So I looked at the time, 30 minutes late for breakfast, what’s 30 more minutes.

Within 30 minutes (30 more minutes that is) I downloaded, installed, configured, imported all my Modernbill clients and accounts, tweaked all the accounts, and sent out my invoice that I started out to do almost three hours ago.

Can you say ... WoW! I did. And I still am.

If you have read this far, then you deserve to know what software I am referring to. WHMCompleteSolutions is the place I found my reprieve from billing insanity.  Not only is their interface slick and really fast, but their pre-sale customer support was amazing. They were able to answer everyone of my questions within 30 minutes (there it is again!) and sometimes within 10 minutes. WoW! From the website they say this:

“The complete client management, billing & support system”

WHMCompleteSolution is the complete client management solution for Web Hosts & Dedicated Server Providers looking for Online Automated Recurring Billing, Flexible and Easy to Use Client Management and Integrated Client Support Center including Support Tickets, Knowledgebase, Announcements & Live Server Status.

  • Powerful & Flexible Billing & Client Management System
  • Support Ticketing System with Full Email Piping Support
  • Automated Account Creation, Suspension & Termination
  • Payment Tracking, Accounting Features & Statistical Reports
  • Multi-Language Support
  • 100% Customisable using Templates

It is four days later, and I have purchased my full license, complete with refugee pricing having come from a competitor (you know who so I won’t repeat myself).

Do yourself a favour, if you are looking for a billing package for a small hosting business, check out WHMCompleteSolutions. The 15 day full functioning trial is FREE, so you have nothing to lose but a little time. It might even save your marriage! Speaking of which, the wife did not shoot me as she had other things to do, and we ended up having a great breakfast over Boccacinos in the West Island of Montreal.

DISCLAIMER: I realize that this solution is not for everyone. A lot of people probably get along well with Modernbill and their support staff. This rant is strictly from my point of view is not meant to say that MB sucks.

PS: But I really do like this new solution and really didn’t like having to work with MB.

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