Thursday, May 4, 2017

HDTV Antennas for Free, Glorious, High-Definition Televsion -- Ditch Comcast!

I recently switched to Comcast for my Internet service here in the Monterey, California area.  When I switched, Comcast promised that my TV service would remain exactly the same.  They gave me a good rate for having both Internet and TV service.  I've had the same service with them for years, called Limited Basic, around $35 per month.  Limited Basic service gives me the five major networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and PBS) and it's enough for my wife and me. 

After the switch, I got a bill, and suddenly there were all these new, unannounced charges.  We have a CableCard tuner system for our first TV in the house, and two DTAs (Digital Transport Adapters) for two more TVs.  There was a DTA fee for each TV, $3.99 to $10.99 per month depending on whether you want HD.  There was a surprise $29.95 installation fee. 

We faced a yearly increase of $263.76 for the exact same services that we had in the past.  I generally have been satisfied with Comcast, but my experiences with them in the past three years (at my California home and summer home in Washington state) has shown me why "Comcast Is America's Most Hated Company" (http://www.pcmag.com/news/350979/comcast-is-americas-most-hated-company). 


I was not going to stand for this.  So I decided to put up an antenna on our house to get the five major network stations. 

I should explain what modern-day TV antennas do.  If you are within range of some TV broadcasters, then a TV antenna should be designed to bring in either VHF and/or UHF signals.  The best antenna brings in both VHF and UHF signals.  VHF is generally channels 7 and below; UHF is higher.  I will leave it to you to research this more.  In my area, I wanted to receive channels below 7.1 and above 7.1, so I really needed an antenna that would bring in both VHF and UHF signals.  If you can manage to research over-the-air TV signals (OTA), then you will find that TV shows from an antenna are in excellent, glorious HD quality -- better HD quality than the compressed signals that you will get from Comcast or DISH Network.  And the stations are free!


I got so mad that I've now gone through three TV antennas and over 30 hours of walking around my property and on my roof trying to get the best signal.  I finally found a good antenna that gets the four major broadcast networks, and am looking forward to telling Comcast to f*** off next year.  However, I will still need to get Internet from somewhere.  I will write about this in another blog post. 

I live in Pacific Grove, California.  The nearest broadcast antennas are in Salinas, 23 miles east of us.  The website tvfool.com has traditionally given great information about TV stations, channels, and their direction and distance from any address that you put in.  Sadly, this site seems to be on the outs; it appears that the person in charge of the site is not maintaining it.  I used to post questions to the forums, for instance, and can no longer post. 

Here are the antennas and various resources that I used:

1.  Solid Signal (http://www.solidsignal.com/) markets antennas.  They responded to my question that I sent to them over their website.  They recommended the Antop AT-414B UFO Smartpass Omnidirectional Amplified HDTV Outdoor Digital Antenna with 4G LTE Filter - 65 Mile Range.  I bought this antenna for $84, and it was on sale at several retailers including Amazon, newegg, and of course, Solid Signal.  I was surprised at the immediate and copious amount of marketing emails that I subsequently received from Solid Signal -- they sell all kinds of electronic gadgets, not just antennas.  They were like some kind of frenzied Fry's Electronics or out-of-control Radio Shack. 

The Antop antenna looks like a miniature model of the Star Trek Enterprise spaceship.  It comes with a 30-foot length of coax cable, and you have to use an electronic amplifier "in front" of your TV. 




The Antop antenna surprised me.  It actually received the five major networks that I wanted to get -- the problem was that it only received 3 or 4 channels wherever I located it.  I spent 16 hours walking around my house and on my roof, trying to find the best place to mount the antenna.  I'd find a place where the antenna would get all five networks, but later in the day, I'd only get 3 or 4 stations.  The antenna, frankly, drove me a bit crazy because it was so inconsistent.  I ended up returning it, regretfully -- because it ALMOST worked. 


Another vendor, Antennas Direct, also replied to my questions.  It took them a week, but they recommended their Antennas Direct ClearStream 2V Antenna with Mount (60 Mile) × 1.  I bought this antenna from Radio Shack online, believe it or not. 

Radio Shack pleasantly surprised me.  I bought the Clearstream antenna from them because the website stated "free shipping and returns on this item."  When I tried to return the antenna to Radio Shack, their process was a bit slow (everything was done through email and had to be approved) but I've received a prepaid return label, took the package to my local Fedex Office store, and got a full refund as promised. 


The Clearstream antenna had basically the same performance as the Antop UFO antenna - maddeningly inconsistent.  It also appears somewhat cheaply made.  It took me about 45 minutes to put the thing together, and it seemed like nothing more than chicken wire arranged in a grid along with antenna (VHF) sticks that you'd find on old TV antennas. 


My third and final choice of antenna, and the one I ended up keeping (I actually bought another, to put on the guest house at our property), was suggested by Winegard technical support.  I've had a Winegard FV-30BB FreeVision Indoor/Outdoor HDTV Antenna for a few years.  This is a GREAT antenna, small, portable, and capable of pulling in faraway stations.  I used it at my summer house in Washington State to try out OTA television a couple of years ago.  I then bought a really big antenna to pull in stations in Tacoma and Seattle, over 40 miles away.  I say all this because I've had good experience with Winegard products.  This unpowered Freevision antenna pulled in just about all the stations that the Clearstream and Antop antennas had. 


Winegard tech support recommended the Winegard FlatWave Air FL6550A Amplified Digital Outdoor HDTV Antenna (4K Ready, High-VHF, UHF, Black) - 60 Mile Long Range.  I bought one from Costco.com (online) because it had free shipping and free returns (I'd have to bring it in to a local Costco store).  I liked this antenna so much that I bought a second one (from Amazon, this time). 



This antenna is a largish black box.  It looks like a 2-foot square Apple TV.  It's sleek, black, and works well.  It looks better than the chicken wire Clearstream and the UFO Antop -- I'd be fine putting this anywhere around the house.  It is designed to be mounted on the eaves of a roof, not necessarily on a standard antenna mast. 

However, I found that this antenna, like the others, did not do well if mounted on a roof, unless it was mounted over six feet above the roof.  All antennas worked best on the ground rather than the roof, in a relatively open area with a relatively clear view of the east and north (where the station's broadcast antennas were located).  Signals seems to bounce off the walls of our houses, so that I'd get one station very dependably in the narrow space between our buildings, but not on the roof! 

I did finally find an area on my roof where the Winegard FL6550A antenna could find all five broadcast networks.  It's been working great.  It does have a USB power injector that needs to be place so it can transmit 5 volts to the antenna.  Winegard tech support told me:

"The FL6550A has an amplifier that is internal to the antenna. The device that goes in the coax line simply inserts power into the line to power the antennas internal amplifier. It should be installed between the splitter and the antenna, however if you can locate a splitte

You can therefore split the antenna signal into two coax cables either in front of or in back of the power injector, as long as the splitter can pass the 5V voltage up to the antenna.  I tried a few splitters, and the Linear 2512 ChannelPlus DC & IR Passing 2-Way Splitter/Combiner ($5.46 from Amazon) did seem to work (I still need to do more testing on this; it seemed to NOT pass one channel but did pass the others).  The other splitter that I tested was a CHANNEL PLUS 2532 2-Way Splitter/Combiner ($2.82 at Amazon).  This splitter/combiner did NOT work behind the power injector.  You could use this splitter, however, downstream of the power injector to split the antenna signal to two TVs. 


It turns out that the Antop ANT414 UFO antenna and the Clearstream 2 antenna had near-identical performance.  They picked up the same (incomplete) number of stations at the same locations.  The big difference is that the Clearstream 2 antenna did not need any power or amplifier to supply a signal to a TV tuner. 

The Winegard FlatWave Air FL6550A Amplified Digital Outdoor HDTV Antenna performed better than the other two antennas, pulling in all five channels that I wanted, and more.  It was so good that I bought a second one. 


r with one side is power passive you can install the power inserter after the splitter."

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Great Place to Have Camera Gear Repaired

A few months ago, I wrote about the incredibly crappy customer service that I got from Nikon.  I am a "Nikon Professional Services" member, and you would think that I might get some kind of respect or service as an NPS member.  You would be laughably wrong. 

I had just bought a used Nikon lens and wanted to know if this was a "US" lens that Nikon would repair if need be.  Nikon refused to tell me.  They told me that I would need to send the lens in to one of their repair facilities in order to get the answer to my question.  Ridiculous!

I just discovered a facility in Culver City (thanks, photo forums) that repaired a Leica and Canon lens for me.  I was thoroughly impressed by their communication and service, and so I recommend them here.  If you have a Nikon or Canon lens or body that is either "gray market" or "US-warrantied", I am pretty sure that Steve's Camera Repair will be able to service your lens or body, with speed, efficiency, and quality. 

Here's their contact info:

Steve’s Camera Service Center
4355 Sepulveda Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230
www.stevecamera.com/contact

Monday, February 27, 2017

Products With Bad Batteries: Don’t Make the Mistake of Buying Them

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 I've been meaning to write a post about batteries for a while.  I think about this theme every time I use a product where the manufacturer has gotten cheap and used low-quality batteries -- and the product is dead, useless because of the cheap batteries. 

If a manufacturer makes a good product, that product will contain high-quality rechargeable batteries that hold a charge for more than a few days, even several months. 

On the opposite end, I've bought too many products where cheap, low-quality batteries have obviously been used.  These items end up showing their low quality.  When you need to use them -- they aren't there for you.  You therefore have to keep these tools or gadgets on the charger all the time, and they eventually cost you a lot more than products with high-quality batteries.  

My biggest disappointments have been Garmin nuvi GPS units, which seem to be made of very low-quality components.  Oh, how can I forget laptops from HP and Asus, which make me tear my hair out when I use them?  

Here's a list of some products and their makers where the batteries would go dead after being unplugged from the charger for just a day or two. 

I've been increasingly surprised and disappointed at the low build quality of my Garmin nuvi units.  A 1350 model that I bought five  years ago is no longer usable, as it will not accept my finger touches on its touchscreen.  It is maddeningly unusable.  I bought this for my wife, who treats all gadgets with great care.  (From my Amazon order history, I see that I bought a StreetPilot c330 GPS Navigator back in February 2008.  We've come a long way). 

The new 2595 LMT model that I bought last year has a very mediocre battery life, losing its charge completely after just a day or two.  It's evident that Garmin has cut corners by putting crappy, inexpensive batteries into its nuvi units.  These batteries will lose their power if they are sitting in the car for just a couple of days.  A device with a better quality battery will hold its charge and power on after sitting for one or two months, maybe more.  C'mon, Garmin.  Your GPS units cost a lot, and surely you can put higher-quality components in them. 

The only device that I've ever had damaged while traveling was a Garmin, which suffered a cracked screen when I had to check in my rolling carryon.  None of the four smartphones in that carryon got damaged, nor did any of the four hard drives suffer any damage.  I've never had anything else in my carryon or checked baggage break, after 30 years of traveling.  Well, I am sure I have, but that would have been my fault -- and I can't remember. 

One of my biggest disappointments was trying to use iPod touches as a music player when swimming laps.  I bought FOUR iPod touches in all, selling all of them.  Every one of them would lose a charge if I let the iPod sit for more than a day.  The iPod were devices from hell.  If I sat them on my desk and looked at them every day or week, they'd keep a charge for over a month.  Once I was satisfied that the battery was OK in the iPod, I'd seal it in the waterproof pouch for swimming the next day, and when I'd be in the pool ready to use it -- SURPRISE!  The iPod had run out of battery power.  I f***ing hate Apple iPods.  They are over-designed, with batteries that are too thin. 

Surprisingly, the iPad mini 2 that I have works just fine and seems to hold a charge for several days.  The iPad 2 and 3 that I owned before this mini worked fine for two years or so, and after that, their batteries would not hold a charge for more than a day or so. 

Be careful of buying used Apple iPod touches and iPads.  They are overdesigned, and they use very thin batteries that probably only have a life of two years or so. 

On the other hand, I've recently bought four-year-old used MacBook Pros and Airs, which still have good batteries, and are simply awesome machines. 

I had an Asus Nexus 2nd generation tablet that was even worse.  The battery in this otherwise fine tablet can't sit for more than 12 hours before it loses its charge. 

I have four Windows 7 laptops that do various tasks around the house, such as serving as a Windows Media Center DVR.  The Asus is a real piece of s***.  This Asus laptop was the most expensive Windows 7 laptop I ever bought.  It had fine specs, so I thought that I was getting a great deal. The touchpad has never worked right.  I started using it seriously for a while, had to buy a separate mouse to use it.  The battery dies almost instantly -- it won't hold a charge.  Then the hard drive starting giving me problems.  Even worse, when the hard drive started acting up, I got a mysterious message from the Asus laptop (well, I guess I have to blame Windows) and chose the wrong option, erasing and reformatting the hard drive.  The hard drive did the same thing a week later. 

My HP Envy laptop worked for a year, but then the battery on it died.  The battery would not hold a charge.  I bought a replacement battery on Amazon, which was just as bad.  Don't buy a battery from Amazon seller ZTHY TECH. I bought the battery in August 2016, but it's going to be too much trouble to rip it out of the Envy and ship it back.  Oh, and the HP Envy's hard drive died within the first week of purchasing it.  After a huge amount of hassle, HP took the laptop and replaced the hard drive (something I could have done easily myself).  The hard drive that they put in started acting up a year later, and I had to replace that one too.  The Envy is now in storage, as is the Asus. 

I have an MSI laptop, and a Fujitsu laptop.  Both are inexpensive Windows machines with i3 processors.  I think that the MSI laptop's battery is bad now.  Who knows about the Fujitsu.  I am wondering what the hell I was thinking by buying four Windows laptops.  At least they are Windows 7 machines. 

My LG G3 phone has such a large screen that it sucks up the battery.  I loved my G2 phone.  The G3 phone is ridiculous, and a real disappointment.  Maybe the battery is high quality, but the engineers who designed this phone did not put enough thought into it.  If I am driving and using an app like Waze on the phone, it sucks up so much power that the phone will steadily drain EVEN IF I have a charger attached to it!  As a result, the phone is almost useless. 

Finally, I've now built up a collection of eight vacuum cleaners across our main home and our summer home (and several storage areas).  The newer Black and Decker handheld vacuums that state they have lithium batteries are great and will hold a charge for weeks:
Black & Decker HHVI320JR02 Dustbuster Cordless Lithium Hand Vacuum

I bought an old B&D Dustbuster that has to be plugged into the charger all the time, and is therefore useless.  The Eureka 96HX Quick-Up Cordless 2-in-1 Stick Vacuum had the same issue and is retired.  Lastly, if you are looking for a small handheld vacuum, definitely get one with a battery (and a good battery).  I bought the Eureka 71B EasyClean Corded Hand-Held Vacuum, and I just never used it because of the hassle of having to hook up the cord.  I use the newer Black & Decker cordless vacuums all the time, and they are great tools for all kinds of things (like cleaning the dust out of my computers), rather than useless objects rotting away in storage. 


Before my readers say that all I do is complain, I would like to point out some super awesome products that have only been great. 

My Panasonic wireless phones. These phones are amazing.  I can walk 50 yards from the base unit and still hear people talking on them clearly.

Most of the Panasonic gadgets that I've bought in the past 30 years are still working. 

My Macbooks (and other Macs); all 2012 or 2013 models, are simply awesome machines.  If you are buying a used Mac, note that Mac laptops will show the number of battery cycles if you call up the System Profiler.  

My small 2000-watt Honda generator: I had to use this for two days during a power outage.  It powered two refrigerators, ran a microwave and espresso machine, charged all my phones, and powered my MacBook Pro for 12 hours on half a gallon of gas.  

A paired set of Makita tools -- a drill and nut driver -- that I bought from Home Depot during a Black Friday over four years ago.  The batteries that came with this set hold a charge for a year or more.  Just fantastic quality.  

My 3-year-old chocolate labrador retriever, Moose, has an all-day battery that recharges in 5 minutes and goes all day, all the time.  I expect his battery to last 12 to 15 years.  


Monday, February 6, 2017

Getting "Live file system repair is not supported" Errors When Using WD Hard Drive with Mac

I've used dozens of hard drives with my Macs.  I highly recommend the OWC
NewerTech Voyager S3 hard drive bays, where you can put a bare hard drive into the bay, which then works with Macs or PCs through USB 3, Firewire, or eSATA. 

Here's an example:
https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/NewerTech/Voyager/Hard_Drive_Dock

I use the S3 USB3.0 dock with my Macs, and they work great.  They are fast and reliable. 

I bought a WD 3tb desktop hard drive a few months ago, and I've had a really difficult time getting it to work with my Mac.  I tried transferring files to it all weekend, and for one reason or another, the transfer process would get interrupted about 4 hours into the process.  The drive would not act right -- I could not open it to view files, or it would show that no files had been transferred, or I could not eject the drive. 

I had to restart my Mac three times and tried reformatting the drive, and checking its health, using Disk Utility.  This took all weekend, a real waste of time. 

I kept getting the message "Live file system repair is not supported".

****
Forums on the web showed that this many other folks have the same problem.  Here are some quotes:

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/5739421?tstart=0

Force ejecting the drive, shutting down and restarting provides a temporary fix (Disk Utility checks out the drive fine) but the problem comes back on a regular basis now.

I am also now seeing this problem after upgrading to Maveriks (sic). Time Machine stops working with an external USB drive (Seagate) and Disk Utility can't repair the drive with the error "Live file system repair is not supported".

I just thought I would share my solution. I was having the same issues, but I turned off file sharing and it repaired the drive with no issues. Once it was done I turned file sharing back on.

+1 for turning off Sharing.

****
I figured that this drive was defective, which was surprising.  Western Digital's drives are generally considered to be very reliable. 

I ran WD's Mac-based "WD Drive Utilities" app on the hard drive.  They never used to have an app like this for the Mac, so I learned something today.  It showed that the drive was fine. 

I did not believe this, so I took out my Windows 7 laptop (an HP Envy that has caused me a lot of trouble, more on this later) and ran WD's "Lifeguard Diagnostics" utility on the drive.  The quick tests showed that the drive was fine, so I ran the 6- hour sector diagnosis.  Six hours later, I got the message that all sectors on the drive were fine. 

From the forums above, I had seen the note that turning off file sharing in System Preferences had worked.  I doubted this and never tried it (because I've had File Sharing on when using dozens of other drives and never had a problem), but I stumbled onto this possible solution:

In Disk Utility, partition the drive as Mac-journaled (this is what I did, other formats may work)
Select the drive and choose Get Info (cmd-I or File--.Get Info). 










The Get Info window for the drive will appear.  I've never see this before, but under General: there is a checkbox and the words "Shared folder."  I unchecked the box, and I am hopeful that this solved this bizarre problem.  We shall see; I am two hours into a cloning operation and it is fine so far.  We'll see in three hours. 

Here's another thing I found:

So, if you have a disk greater than 2TB you cannot have Disk Utility format the boot sector as an MBR type (i.e. MBR would be grayed out).  If you must have an MBR formatted disk drive you will need to purchase a 2TB or smaller disk drive.
(MBR formatting is an option when partitioning hard drives; it allows the drive to boot up Windows machines). 

Super Awesome Internet and Wifi Devices

My friends know that I spend way too much time trying to figure out how to get Internet access when I am on the road, camping; or at my summer house in Washington State. 

Here are two devices that I've tested a great deal and can recommend highly. 

TP-Link CPE210 2.4GHz 300Mbps 9dBi High Power Outdoor CPE/Access Point: about $57 at Amazon


https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E8BWQPE/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_9?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A4UCFL9LU89NR

This TP-Link router picks up someone else's wifi hotspot from 100 yards away or more.  It's a WISP router, meaning I can pick up a Comcast Xfinity hotspot from a neighbor's house, and then turn it into my own wifi hotspot with a different name. 

Comcast has blanketed the US with wifi hotspots.  Most folks with Comcast internet become unknowing and unwitting broadcasters of Xfinity hotspots.  When I am on the road or at my summer house, I use this TP-Link router to get an Xfinity signal from a neighbor across the water or from a far-away RV park hotspot, and it is plenty fast.  Not enough for streaming video, but good enough for everything else I need to do. 

Folks are using these TP-Links with their RVs, also setting up two of them to talk to each other, supply a remote cabin up to a mile away from the main house with internet. 

This is not very portable, so I only set it up if I am going to use it for a few days in the same location.  It is an incredible tool for picking up wifi signals from far away that you can then use.  (I am a Comcast subscriber at our main home, so have a username and account that I can use with their Xfinity hotspots). 

******
 I've been using the Freedompop free cell phone and cellular hotspot services for three years.  Freedompop really gives free cell phone and hotspot service -- but you have to be aware of the "gotcha's" and disable things like their premium services, which adds charges. 

Freedompop's customer service through Twitter messaging has been GREAT.  I've received better customer service in the past month through them than I've ever had from just about any company.  That's either saying a lot -- or maybe it's sad that I am getting such poor customer service from all the other companies that I deal with. 

I have noticed that a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone, with Sprint's 3G and 4G network, has not been working as well as it did.  I believe that Sprint's 3G network might be getting less attention from Sprint and degrading in area and quality.  Sprint's 4G network seems to be getting better, but the area it serves is fairly small compared to Verizon's.  

I recently bought a FreedomPop Netgear Zing hotspot.  This device takes a cell phone signal (4G) and lets you access the internet through Freedompop's (Sprint's) cell network.  I have been very happy with how fast this hotspot works, at my summer house, which seems to be on the edge of Sprint's 4G network.  This wifi hotspot uses cell data and is plenty fast.  I get 500Mb of data to use monthly with this hotspot for free; I have not opted to pay for the 3G fallback data.  

The Netgear Zing hotspots always show low battery and no power warnings; but despite the warnings, they have been working fine.  I will have to see how long they last.  I've only had one for one month; but I've been so  happy with it, that I bought another.  Freedompop has been selling them for $20.  The Netgear Zing hotspots DO have 3G fallback capability, from what I could tell -- but that costs $3.99 per month.  Using the hotspots only in 4G mode is free, if you only use up to 500Mb of data per month. 

https://www.freedompop.com/offer/netgear-zing-free-trial?ftm_source=google&ftm_medium=cpc&ftm_campaign=Shopping-US_WIRELESS_SPRINT:US:ALL:SRC:KWD:DTM&ftm_placement=-&ftm_term=-&ftm_network=search-g&ftm_content=112646612479-1o1&ftm_adgroup=NA&ftm_device=dto&ftm_devicemodel=&gclid=CIrW2Pjx-dECFUNafgod_DIHmA

Using Freedompop is free but you need to know how to turn off the gotcha's. 


Saturday, January 14, 2017

VLC for Android as a Music Player -- How to Play Songs Continuously, Icons and Controls Explained

I converted a cheap Android phone to use as my music player, when swimming.  I bought a waterproof pouch that allows me to use waterproof earbuds, and the combination is pretty great.  I have pretty good control over the touch interface through the waterproof pouch.  I taped a small square of packing padding over the inside front window of the pouch, which pulls the front of the pouch away from the touchscreen of the phone enough so water does not mess with the controls. 

I use VLC on the Android to play my folders of mp3 files.  I used to use an iPod Touch, but the battery life on the thing was terrible (while sitting, not while playing).  I had perhaps four iPods, and all of them would die after sitting for two days.  I tried copying all my music files and folders to another iPod, and it took a day of research and five hours to simply duplicate all my music from one iPod to another.  I am done with iPods. 

With my Android phone, I just copy my music folders and files to a micro-SD card, and that's pretty much it.  Boom -- duplicate music library on another phone. 

I chose VLC to play my music folders, since it could choose a folder on an SD card and play all the music files on a folder.  Recently, I'd choose songs in a folder (not a playlist) and get stuck -- VLC would only play the one song, then stop.  This was a hassle.  I did some research and discovered that no one out there has fully explained the controls for VLC's audio interface, nor how to make all the songs in a physical folder play continuously. 

The phone that I use for swimming has VLC version 1.7.5, an older version.  I describe using VLC version x below. 


VLC v1.7.5: How to Play All Songs in a Folder (Not a Playlist) Continuously, Without Stopping After Every Song.

I have my music mp3 files in folders on my computers, making it easy to put folders of music on CDs and SD cards.  These are physically separated into folders, not organized into playlists on the phone -- which VLC can do. 

To play all songs in a folder continuously, so every song plays one after another without stopping until the last song in the folder, do this:


Go to the folder level of the SD card.  In my case, I open VLC, then using the menu icon at the top left of VLC (three lines), I choose sdcard (rather than Internal memory, since I've stored my mp3 files on an SD card).  Then I choose the topmost folder, which contains all the folders of mp3 files.  I called this "Music SD card".  Once in that topmost folder, I see all my folders (usually albums). Choose "Play" from the three dots to the right of the folder you wish to play.  Once you do this, the folder will open, and you can choose any song in the folder to start playing. The songs listed in the folder will then play in succession.  If you just choose the folder of music files and then choose a song in that folder, without choosing Play at the upper level first, then the song you choose will only play once, then the music player will stop. 




Now, if you press the bottom of the VLC player, you will bring up a small inset screen that allows you to scrub through the song while it is playing, pause,  jump ahead to the next song, or go back.  I've encountered these symbols and icons before, so I don't describe them. 

There were a couple of icons that I've never seen and did not understand.  Here's what they do. 

Here's the folder of music files, with the song presently playing "opened" at the bottom:


You'll notice this icon, or symbol, at the right of the widget player:





What the heck does this do?  I could not find an explanation anywhere.  I searched for quite a while, and experimented with my phone.  By pressing this icon, you can change the icon to black, and then the number "1" will appear inside the arrows, in black again. 

Here's what I think this icon does.  I believe that this icon controls playlists -- so this icon does not do much for me, since I don't use playlists.  I'd rather just organize my music files physically, in folders on an SD card or computer.  Regardless, here's what this does:


1.  Orange means that this icon is turned off -- the playlist will not loop, or play itself over and over again. 

2.  Black means that loop is turned on -- the playlist will play over and over again, continuously. 

3.  Black loop symbol with 1 digit in it: plays a single file over and over, so you hear the same song that you selected over and over. 

I experimented with this icon in the pool, without knowing the above, trying to get my folder of music to play all songs continuously.  It took quite a while to figure out what the loop icon meant.  I just selected one song in a folder, had it play -- so it was the only song in the playlist.  Selecting the black loop, with or without the number 1 in it, meant that the same song played over and over again.  See, the playlist only consisted of one song!

What do the two crossed arrows at the left mean? 

If black, the next song in the playlist will play. 
If orange, the music player stops after playing the current song. 

Again, these are playlist controls, so I am not real sure.

I discovered some more updated symbols that VLC uses, which do the same thing as the above:

This website had some explanation of what VLC does when used as an audio player:


http://hqandroid.com/vlc-for-android-beta-the-swiss-army-knife-of-multimedia/


You can create your own playlists by selecting a song to start off with and then clicking ‘append’ (found in the drop down menu) on every song you want to add. In the same way that you can change the song order of albums you are able to do the same with your custom playlists. VLC will also remember the last playlist you created, so that you don’t have to keep selecting the songs every time. It also has the same extra features that the video player offers: change the playback speed, add a sleep timer and jump to a certain time in a track.

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Another phone that I use as a music player has VLC 2.0.6 on it. 


With this version of VLC, playing all songs in a folder makes more sense.  Just find the song in the folder that you want to play, and choose "Play All" by selecting the three dots to the right of the song. 






Friday, January 13, 2017

Another Website Hall of Shame: Best Western's Website STINKS

Want to get irritated?  Try booking a room at the Best Western website.

You'll find a room.  Then, as a member, you will have to endure not only checking a box stating that you are not a robot, but having to choose among several images as to whether those squares are street signs.  What is a street sign anyway?  Does a sign on a street qualify?  How about a real estate sign?

OK, you can do this.  Now you notice that each time you click login -- the password that you just filled in gets replaced with the website telling you to re-enter the password.  You do this three to six times, more if you are like me.

Oh, and I did not get this in the screenshow capture, but at several points in the process, the "prove you're not a robot" captcha comes up again, demanding an intelligence test from you.  Over and over again.  Arrgh.  

You can never get in.  The website is insane.  You book a room at another hotel on a website that actually is not annoying and make you scream and destroy your computer, such as hotels.com.

video 

Hey, yes, I stay in Best Westerns sometime.  They are great to stay in, when in Australia.  And in certain places on the Oregon coast, they are the only places that allow me and my dogs.

Oh, as it turns out, I was entering the wrong password.  I use 1Password to manage my passwords, so I think BW changed it.  I did call BW customer service, and they said that they have been having problems with the new site.  But of course, the agent had no idea what I was talking about, since she never used BW's website.  Why is it that us customers out here generally know more about a company's offerings and websites than the company's own representatives? 

Here's a link to the old site, where I was able to figure out how to reset my password.  I hate it when companies change their websites.  They never seem to do enough testing.

http://book.bestwestern.com/bestwestern/selectRoom.do#