Thursday, September 22, 2011

Boring Post: Using a PC for a DVR

Don't get too excited, Brig isn't back to post his opinions on the Big 12, Big 10, Pac 12, or the even lamer Longhorn Network. He thought about it, and we talked about (believe me, not many weeks go by that I don't have to hear about the latest sports related scandal), but nothing got blogged.

So onto the boring-ness. I've had lots of friends ask me how we got rid of cable and use a PC as our DVR (it works awesomely), and so I'm hopping on here to give explain what we've done. And with the savings of no more cable, we made back the cost of the PC months ago.

Here is our entertainment center. Yep, that's a computer keyboard that you can see. Mostly, it sits in the cubby below, but it's part of our set-up. And I'm sorry about the poor picture quality (I used my iPhone) and the dust.

Our first purchase was the TV. We got it on a sweet Superbowl sale in 2010. They make better ones now (and even two months later), but it is HD and we can get TV with just an antenna.

This is the antenna that I picked up at Walmart. It was like $30. I can get all the network channels with this box. It sits on the flat on the entertainment center and doesn't involve bunny ears.

There was a period where it was taped to the window, but then Fox upped its signal strength. So it's back on the entertainment center. You have to use your TV to search for the channels in the set up or the antenna won't work.

The only thing that you can't see about the antenna is the splitter in the back. We have the antenna routed to go to the TV and the computer. I got that at Radio Shack.

Here is our PC. It is a Dell Zino, but I hear that they have been discontinued. Use the link to see what kind of specs came with our model.

I like the size of it. It has a mouse, keyboard and infrared port for the remote all attached to the USB ports. Our PC also connects to the TV via an HDMI cable (buy those online too if you want to spend less money).

Check out the construction on that shelf. I had Brig custom build a shelf for the TV to sit on. Didn't he do a great job!

Here are some things to keep in mind when buying a PC for a TV:

1. Get a good video card (I'm not techie enough to tell you what specs are good, I think I asked my brother or brother-in-law)

2. Wireless Internet (we use Hulu and Netflix through the PC -- but I'm about to drop Netflix because they are offering me less for more money)

3. Hard Drive capacity: Get something that can hold all the shows you want to record. And remember, that PCs get buggy if the hard drive is too full. Go big.

4. Software: All I added was anti-virus software. Windows Media Center (the software necessary for recording) comes standard. Windows Media Center works almost like Tivo. Tivo is nicer, but it also more expensive. You can record series and individual shows. HD TV has a digital TV guide and that is what powers Windows Media Center. You can select from the TV guide or use a search to find shows to record. It has about 2 weeks of TV programming available for recording.

5. Home internet speed: Because we use this to stream TV and movies, we pay for a better Internet speed

6. TV Tuner: This is what our antenna runs into (with that splitter I mentioned earlier) and then it is connected to the TV. It's not pictured. I got what Dell sold when we bought our PC.

Our PC only has one TV tuner (I don't know if you could add more, I haven't worried about it), so you can only record one show at a time. But with Hulu and the Network web sites, you can usually get the show online anyway. I gave up watching the Big Bang Theory because it was on at the same time as Community.

Our last purchase was the remote. It works with Windows 7 and Media Center (the software that runs our DVR).

I bought it off Amazon, but I think other web sites carry it as well.

We bought a Blu-ray player separately. For some reason, our PC doesn't use the full size of the TV as a monitor. It's most of it, but for movies we use the Blu-ray player to get that last missing inch.

Our Blu-ray was also sold with a surround sound system. The PC is connected to the Blu-ray player and then to the TV -- all with HDMI cables -- so we get the shows and streaming content in surround sound.

Sorry that the pictures aren't the best. If I have more time later I'll fix them.


Monday, June 13, 2011

LeBron- The Little Prince

I posted my quick take on LeBron last week (which you may have missed if you only link to me on Facebook), and other than the Game 7, I think I will stand by it.  Here is my blurb, before my additional thoughts:

"Lebron James
I think LeBron is a tool.  I hope the Dallas Mavericks put them down in 7 games.  I want it to go down to the wire, and I want the Mavs to take them in Miami.  I want the Heat to suffer humiliation on their home court.  That said, I think LeBron left Cleveland in EXACTLY the RIGHT way.  He went out guns (and ego) blazing.  He made himself the bad boy of the NBA, and that is exactly what the NBA needs.

We love the drama, we love to have someone to root for and root against.  I love that LeBron finally admitted that he isn't enough of a mature leader to build a championship team in Cleveland, I love that if he wins his championship, it had to be purchased and manufactured for him.  I also love that he probably won't even see it that way.

I hate to make Jordan comparisons, because they all fail miserably to make whatever point was trying to be made, that said LeBron has all the talent of a Jordan, but lacks all of the leadership."

Last night's game was very instructive on the mind set of LeBron James.  He is not a clutch player, and he quits when the chips are down.  The problem is beautifully summed up by Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Caveliers: “Congrats to Mark C.&entire Mavs org. Mavs NEVER stopped & now entire franchise gets rings. Old Lesson for all:There are NO SHORTCUTS. NONE.”

LeBron mistakenly thought that the name on his jersey and the people around him would deliver him a title, probably because he thinks that they owed him a championship after he told the world "I am bringing my talents to South Beach".  He kept his word though, he did bring his talents to South Beach, but he also brought his sense of entitlement.  However, when he got to South Beach, he found that same lack of leadership that was absent in Cleveland.

Nobody from the Heat knew who was in charge.  Wade tried to keep the team together, and did his job and sent the ball to LeBron so he could 'use his talents" only to be rebuffed when LeBron, with an open eye to the basket, continued to dish the ball off to someone else, that may have been more or less open, but significantly less talented.

LeBron came to Miami looking for someone to do the hard work for him, and as he still doesn't understand that nobody is going to do that work for him.

If LeBron is going to win a championship (of course if he plays in the NBA for 17 years he is likely to stumble into one or two), he is going to have to sit down with his piles of bling and come to grips with the fact that he is going to have to be the go to guy, or he is going to have to sit in the shadows of someone else who will get to take all of the credit, and dole out little pieces of it to his teammates in a championship speech.

The problem is that LeBron has already crowned himself King, and now he probably has to go out and slay the dragon by himself.  This means that he is going to have to take hard shots when his team is tired, he is going to have to take the ball, not just ask for it in tough games, and he is going to have to put other great players in HIS shadow, not just in the shadow of his ego sitting atop a big pile of bling, because legacy is always greater than bling, and legacy comes with winning championships.

UpdateLeBron's commented this morning about how average fans should be getting back to the real world and stop "hating" on him, where does he think we are all blogging from?  We are not blogging from our newest Bentley while crying over our dismal failures, we are not going into a doctors office to get a tattoo removed that says "King I/VIII", we are at work clicking over to email and Excel every time our boss walks by so we don't get caught blogging on work computers.  We are taking that risk so that we can get our excitement out there about HIS loss, even if we had never heard of JJ Barea before last night.

Friday, June 10, 2011

NFL Lockout - My Predictions

I wanted to post a little about the NFL Lockout, because I really don't think it is a bad thing.  In the end this is a labor dispute, management and labor fighting to keep as much of the pie as they can get, and both sides should keep on fighting.

That is where the easy part ends.  For those of you that need something to fall asleep to tonight, I'll give a recap of the dispute:

2006, The NFL and the NFLPA (Players Union) signed a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that gave the NFL $1B, and then split the rest of the revenues 40/60 (59.5% to be precise, to the players).  Back in 2006, the NFL racked in Gross Revenue of $6.3B.  This agreement also included an "opt out" clause that gave either side an opportunity to "opt out" of the agreement in 2009 if they didn't think they were getting a fair deal.

2008, The NFL exercised their right under the 2006 CBA to opt out and renegotiate the agreement.  They claim that they have spent a significant amount of money growing revenues to the tune of now about $9B.  They also forecast that they will have to spend more to continue to grow the game, build stadiums.

Subsequently the NFLPA voted to have a Litigator (Trial Lawyer/former Federal Prosecutor) represent them rather than a former NFL player in preparation for a lengthy court battle.  Gene Upshaw, the former NFLPA director was also a former NFL player.  I would argue that a litigator was the right decision as the NFL was posturing for a fight as well by signing contracts with the TV Networks that would pay the NFL even in the event of a lockout when no games would be shown.

At that time, the NFL floated a few different proposals including increasing their initial take to $2B, and splitting the remaining revenue 50/50.  There were other proposals including an 18 game regular season, rookie salary cap among other things.  During this time the NFL filed a grievance with the Nation Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that the NFLPA was not negotiating in good faith.

The original revenue split was not really that bad, especially compared to other large service (people) based companies.  All companies like this pay out a vast majority of revenue to their labor, when the labor is the product.  And compound this with the fact that this is entertainment, the top entertainers get paid, and the rest of the cast makes good coin, but not enough to retire after 3 years.  To the firm, this labor is an expense, and after paying those expenses, in addition to other costs, headquarters, marketing, etc, the owners probably make a pretty good penny running the show, although we know that there are some clubs losing money.  But like all companies that are growing, it takes money to invest in expansion and growth, and the NFL continues to see a lot of growth potential.

The NFLPA said they would give up the cash if they could just see the financials of each of the 32 teams.  (They were lying by the way).  The NFL gave up 5 years worth of consolidated financials, but not broken out by club.  The NFLPA then asked for 10 years.  Just FYI, this has nothig to do with the financials and "trust but verify", the NFLPA wanted to see the books so they knew the exact dollar breaking point of the NFL and each club to be used as leverage during settlement talks during an antitrust lawsuit suit, nothing more, nothing less.  The NFL would be complete morons to release the books, and the NFLPA lawyers know that, but as calculated, it played really well with message boards bloggers to say the NFL was hiding something.

No real progress was made by the time the CBA was set to expire in March 3, 2011.

Shortly before the CBA expired, the NFLPA notified the NFL that its members had voted to dissolve the union and reorganize it into a professional association (not a union).  The new NFLPA also filed a lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota alleging that the NFL was operating an illegal monopoly, in addition they sought to have the judge block what they assumed would be a lockout of their players by the NFL, which subsequently occurred at midnight that night.

Now this is where it gets messy.  The NFL (and other professional sports leagues) are likely the only group of capitalists that absolutely NEED to have a union in order to operate.  Without the union, the NFL is just one big illegal monopoly.  The NFL is an association of 32 independently owned clubs, all which conspire to cap salaries, and divide up labor outside the normal process of hiring employees (they have a draft and declare that their picks can't go to another club for 4 or 5 years since they got "dibbs" on them.) 

Nowhere else is this legal.  GM, Ford and Chrysler don't have a bunch of college engineering students sign up for "career day" and then each take turns picking their favorites, and then tell them they can't go to a competitor if they don't like their deal.  It's just illegal.

But, if the company signs a deal with a union, and the union agrees to all of this, it is magically legal.

So the issue in court became "is it legal for a company to lockout employees if they are not part of a union" (because the dissolved it).  The district court judge said no, there is no union, so a lockout is illegal, in addition she ruled that she didn't have to wait for the NLRB to rule on the NFLs petition that the NFLPA was negotiating in bad faith because she had "original jurisdiction" to rule in this matter, because if there was no union, this dispute did not arise out of a labor dispute and run afoul of the federal law barring federal judges from stopping a lockout under the Norris–La Guardia Act.  In addition she ruled that the players would likely win their lockout suit if it was ever tried in court of fact, and that the lockout was illegal because the players were being harmed irreparably during the lockout.

The NFL subsequently appealed to the 8th circuit court of appeals, and the 3 judges voted 2-1 to put a stay on the order to lift the lockout, and the lockout was reimposed.  The judges also said that the circut judge erred in her finding that the lockout was illegal because the Norris-Laguardia act noted a lockout arising from a labor dispute, it did NOT mention that there had to be a union or formal organized labor of any kind, just that it had to arise out of a labor dispute.

And that is where we are today.  If the 8th Circuit rules formally as expected to keep the lockout in place, then the NFL will have the leverage it needs to push through many (but not all) of its demands.  If the players prevail, this continues to get tied up in court as the players have vowed to continue to sue under anti-trust claims.

I don't really care what the outcome is, I enjoy this fight.  Ultimately a deal will get done.  I personally believe that the players are over confident that the fans will back them against the NFL.  I didn't see a lot of Packers fans trade in their cheeseheads and season tix at Lambeau Field for horned helmets and Vikings jerseys.  Fans follow their team, they admire players, but they root for their team as generations of players come and go.

The players are short timers, and they need to bank all they can as fast as they can, you don't pay off $600k worth of bling debt with food stamps.  You need catches and touchdowns for that.  The average player lasts 3.6 years.  They either get hurt and more often they get outrun by the next big deal coming out of college.  Think about it, how many players can you name from your current favorite team?  3, 4 maybe, if you are a sports junkie 50% of the starters?

If the players win, we likely won't see football this year.  The antitrust lawsuit (with triple $$$ damages from the NFL if the NFL loses) is too big a gamble, they will temporarily shut down the league and possibly reopen it with most of the big market teams, several smaller teams will fold.  New rules would have to be put in place that would not run afoul of antitrust laws, this would eliminate the draft, salary cap and forced contracts.  Free agency would be king.  We can argue about whether it would be a bad thing or not, some teams will fold as they will anyway.

The disputes are much more heated between individual owners right now than they are between the NFL and the NFLPA.  Big market teams can weather the storm and make money on their own, even without team parody, but the overall take will be way south of $9B. 

Predictions: NFL wins at 8th circuit and holds their clubs together longer than the NFLPA can hold their members together.  Ultimately there are way more guys making $750k/yr than there are guys making $20M/yr.  The cheap guys will get tired of painting houses for $15/hr.  NFLPA subsequently folds re-certifies as a union.  NFL gets $1.4B up front and 46/54 split of revenues, and a rookie wage cap.  In exchange to get a deal done, the NFLPA drops its antitrust suit.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

P90X/NFL Lockout/Buckeye Trouble

I hate to use a string of tragedies to start blogging again, but as football season approaches, I finally hase some opinions that I am going to share with the world whether the world reads them or not.  Each of my topics below warrants its own post (or 5 posts in a couple of cases) but here are the highlights.

First, P90X started out great, I averaged 4 days a week and had only 1 glitch, my appetite surged, so although my shoulders, arms and chest look good, I haven't dumped much weight, so I am taking a few weeks off to stabilize the food intake, and then will start up with the evening workouts again.  I did start doing a morning run/jog/hike, and I really like it, so that will continue, so wish me luck.

NFL Lockout
As many of you don't know about and probably won't care about until games get cancelled, the NFL has locked out its players and mini-camps are getting missed and we might even see a few games get cancelled, if not the whole season depending on what a couple of judges say, and whether the NFL can negotiate a deal with a Union that technically doesn't exist but somehow is still negotiating on behalf of the players. 

I have spent way too much time on ESPN message boards reading incoherent rants that don't know the difference between REVENUE and INCOME.  More on this later.

Ohio State Scandals

In really tragic news, Jim Tressel was shown the door at Ohio State (he didn't quit for family reasons or because he was going to be a distraction, I don't care what the press conference said, he was canned).  While Tressel ball is calculated and boring, it is successful.  He controlled his own fate.

A new coach will bring a new scheme and that will make things really tense around Columbus for a while.  That said, Ohio State will recruit an awesome coach, it always has, and this time will be no different.

Let's just hope the next one isn't a big Bernie Madoff investor (Tressel had odd dealings with Micky Monus).

Lebron James
I think LeBron is a tool.  I hope the Dallas Mavericks put them down in 7 games.  I want it to go down to the wire, and I want the Mavs to take them in Miami.  I want the Heat to suffer humiliation on their home court.  That said, I think LeBron left Cleveland in EXACTLY the RIGHT way.  He went out guns (and ego) blazing.  He made himself the bad boy of the NBA, and that is exactly what the NBA needs. 

We love the drama, we love to have someone to root for and root against.  I love that LeBron finally admitted that he isn't enough of a mature leader to build a championship team in Cleveland, I love that if he wins his championship, it had to be purchased and manufactured for him.  I also love that he probably won't even see it that way.

I hate to make Jordan comparisons, because they all fail miserably to make whatever point was trying to be made, that said LeBron has all the talent of a Jordan, but lacks all of the leadership.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

P90X - Road to Recovery - Days 3 and 4

Holy cow, 4 days in a row.  Although tonight was the 90 minute YogaX, I completed a mere 40 minutes of it, so basically I did YogaJ1/2 (seriously do the math).  Yoga hurts.

So many of you are wondering how it got this bad.  Well, it is a long story that can be summed up in this one picture.

Now, lest you think that I have just let myself go without a thought or care, I did put a lot of thought and care into letting myself go.

But I'm not crazy, and as you can see in the picture, I only let Round Rock Donuts put chocolate frosting on half of my donut, I'm not crazy after all.

I'd also love to say that I am overworked, but although my job is pretty hectic during normal working hours, until the last few weeks I haven't really put in all that much "overtime".  Not that I miss working 80 hr weeks, but I do kind of miss it, at least it gave me an excuse to charge the firm for my way overpriced dinner every night and it was a great excuse to not work out.

Also, since I stopped climbing really hard free climbing stuff and started working on just really technical aid climbing stuff, I figured it didn't really matter what I weighed, until I popped one of the key hooking flakes on a bolt ladder on Meadow Muffin (5.12a) in Rock Canyon Provo UT, now that climb is really hard.

No such excuses anymore, I am going to get back into shape one way or another, and although I may not go back to climbing hard free routes, I should be able to rock my aiders up just about anything.  Thin cracks at Enchanted Rock this summer anyone?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

P90X - Road to Recovery - Days 1 and 2

I just finished day 2 of P90X for about the 7th time.  I made it 45 days the first time I tried it, but since then it has been like 3 weeks max.  This time I am going to attempt a 60 day run...  No excuses.

So that is about all of the optimism I can garner for 1 day.  60 days is a long time, especially since I haven't made the commitment to work out in the mornings, which is really the only time that there are no other demands on my time. 

Wife is a huge fan of morning sleep, so unless I wake her, she could care less what I do before 7, as long as she doesn't have to be involved.

My best run of workouts was about 10 years ago when I used to meet my dad at the gym at 4:45  IN THE AM!!!  Yes you read that right, every morning, the very very early morning.  He would swim, and I would either run on the treadmill or hit the weights.

My next good workout was in my good old Bentonville Arkansas days.  My good friend Ard Hoyt (as well as one of my heroes) and I would meet up at 5:15am to run our 3 miles Monday through Thursday, then on Friday we would play tennis as a reward for our good efforts, that lasted about a year until the wife of 1 year decided that after a year of living in separate states, we should high tail it to Nebraska and live like normal married people.

And just because I can, I am going to plug Ard's illustration work.  If you haven't heard of Ard, your childrens' book collection is wholly incomplete.  You can find a bookshelf of his work here.  His new book to be released in September is Tilly the Trickster, written by Molly Shannon, yes, that Molly Shannon from SNL.  He also illustrated I'm a Manatee, written by John Lithgow, yep, that guy from 3rd Rock From the Sun.

My last great effort was last year in preparation for Mt. Whitney.  I do ok when I have a big trip coming up that I need to get into shape for, but this year I am probably going to miss the great adventure due to the subject of another blog post soon to come [leave it hanging and build excitement], so I needed another motivation, one that will stand the test of time.

So my big motivation this time around came from an Easter Egg hunt a couple of weeks ago when I decided that in order to keep up with the kiddos, I will need to get into perpetually good shape.  I can keep up with them now,but that time is coming to an end if I don't do something soon. 

What really got me thought was that I still managed to pull off four black-flips in a row on the trampoline at the Easter egg hunt, but they were probably really ugly, as I'm sure it was the sheer horror of seeing an overweight guy doing back-flips that was mesmerizing the onlookers, not the grace with which I executed them.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Jagger Redux

Twin#Troubl rockin' the mic like a vandal.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.7

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bad News Brothers Car-Jack Neighbor Girl - Steal Jeep

The wonder twins pretty much stalked the neighbor girl saying "ooooooooh", "cooooool", "wow" and presented other fawning gestures until she basically had no choice but let them take a ride.

I have to say that it was the most polite car-jacking that I have ever seen, but I must admit that I have not been witness to very many car-jackings in my day.

Twin #Trouble took the first ride and since he couldn't go straight, the little girl had to help push him off the grass (the battery was already pretty much worn down) several times.

I was shocked however when Twin #1 asked to drive, his brother just jumped out and got in the passenger seat.  Twin #1 was more interested in seeing how the thing worked then actually covering ground, so he worked hard to keep the jeep on the sidewalk.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this one is worth 1001 + 1 hyphenated words, and that one word plus the hyphenated word that makes this picture worth .00025% (because a hyphenated word is basically a word and a half) more than all other pictures is:


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Little Guy Stalked by Frog on Driving Range

Little guy had to take his class pet (stuffed frog named Leah) around with him everywhere this weekend, which I think is kind of creepy, but whatever.

So on Saturday afternoon when we went to the driving range and forgot to take the frog, we HAD TO go back later in the evening and do a dramatic recreation of the event.  I was glad we did go back though, Little Guy found his swing.

I'll repeat that because it is a huge milestone.  Little Guy found his swing.

This is no small feat.  He finally admitted in the car on the way home from the first round, that he wasn't really trying his hardest, which was pretty obvious.  Lately he hasn't been a very good listener.

I only let him take a few swings when we went back with the frog, but it was worth it.  I worked all afternoon with him to keep his feel on the ground, both before and after his swing, to no avail.  For most of the afternoon, he looked like a lazy version of Happy Gilmore, he wasn't running at the ball, just kind of walking around and into it.

His final shots of the evening were a total breakthrough though.  In his follow through, his front foot stayed in place, his back foot came up onto his toe, his knees were close to touching, his front arm was a little bent, but his back arm was straight, and the ball blasted off straight and high toward the flag.  We were both excited.

Not that it matters, but earlier in the afternoon, I finally found my Driver swing.  It took 2 1/2 hrs, 400+ balls and a hand full of blisters to find it, but I think I finally have a shot that won't take out a window on my next outing at a decent golf club.  Yeah.