5.22.2010

I'm tired of paying for things

Here's my latest scheme to save a buck...

Since I live in the Chicago suburbs, the closest TV broadcasts to my home come from the Sears (sorry, "Willis") Tower and John Hancock Building in downtown Chicago.

You might be saying, "Wait a minute, my closest TV broadcast comes from the cable Comcast installed in my living room, or from the satellite dish installed on my roof." Well, refer to the title faithful reader... I'm tired of paying for things.

Enter the Channel Master 4228HD antenna. It's a "deep-fringe" antenna, capable of receiving over-the-air (OTA) television broadcasts from as far as 60 miles away. Since I live about 50 miles from Downtown Chicago, this one was the way to go.

"Wait a minute", you might be saying again, "An antenna? That's from the 70's man, nobody has an antenna anymore!" Well the fact of the matter is, lots of people do have antennas and more and more are getting them because, like me, they're tired of being raked over by Comcast among others.

So here's the deal, since TV first appeared (hundreds of years ago for you high schoolers) it's been broadcast free of charge, over the air, financially supported by advertising. You may remember all that craziness a few months ago about the digital transition. What that meant was that all of the stations are now being broadcast in crystal clear high definition which in most cases looks better than even Comcast or Dish HD which are highly compressed to save bandwidth. I may be getting too technical here. In simple terms, I put a metal contraption on my roof and now I get free (and legal, not pirated) HDTV. Ok?

So the first step was to visit http://www.antennaweb.org. By typing in your address and answering a few questions, the website will tell you what channels you can receive and how to orient your antenna to receive them.  In my case, my antenna needed to point at 48 degrees to be angled toward Chicago. The installation was fairly simple, using a mount purchased at Menards for $20 and some bolts and RG6 cable, I used a compass to identify the proper angle and point the antenna. I ran the wire through an attic vent to an amplified splitter (Channel Master CM-3418) in the attic. From there, the signal distributes to all my rooms.

I haven't purchased it yet, but there's also an OTA DVR (Channel Master CM-7000PAL) that you can purchase to record your programs for the hefty price of $350.  No monthly fees like TiVo, it instead uses the TV Guide service which is also sent free over-the-air to fill its program guide.

I purchased the antenna from Warren Electronics in Moline IL.  All told, the total investment was...  Well, let's do some math:

Channel Master 4228HD Antenna: $64.55 at Warren Electronics
(I bought on sale for $53.55 at Warren)
Channel Master CM-3418 Amplifier: $38.58 at Warren Electronics
(I bought on eBay for $26)
Channel Master CM-7000PAL DVR: $349.99 at Fry's Electronics
(Don't have this yet)
Various cables bolts, mount and accessories $20-$40 at Menards
(Got these for free from work, except the $20 mount)

My total investment: $99.55, yours might be slightly higher, but right around $100 unless you jump on that DVR.  $100, for free TV FOREVER, or at least till the world ends in 2012.

Here's what it looks like installed on my roof, pointed directly toward Chicago.  Not too much of an eyesore like some of those monster antennas I've seen, but you'll need to go to antennaweb.org to see what kind of antenna you'd need.  Good luck!

5.20.2010

Star Trek - Retirement

Well, it's been a while since I talked about... well, anything on my blog, but specifically about Star Trek Online.


Since my last STO blog post, a lot has happened. I went on a bunch of missions, fought in a lot of battles against Klingons, Gorn and Orions, and learned a lot more about how the game works and plays. I started to realize that the missions began to feel somewhat repetitive. They'd probably be more fun with other players, but I've been flying solo since @Olaf330 retired citing the same reasons, repetition.

Now this isn't really a bash on the game. It's well thought out and well done, looks beautiful. But the problem is it's new. It's not polished, and there's room for a lot of additions, a lot of new missions, and overall bugfixes/improvements. It almost feels like a beta. I've played many games still in beta over the years, and STO feels unfinished, so I have also retired. But definitely not permanently. My character and status are all safe on Activision/Cryptic Studios or whoever owns the servers. I definitely plan on returning to this game, it's a dream for Star Trek fans, but I'd like to play a more finished version.

I accomplished a major milestone before retiring though, pretty cool. My final battle to reach my new status was long and difficult, and unfortunately cost me my ship. If you don't remember my last post, my ship is pictured above, the U.S.S Solitude. It looks a bit different now:


I was in a battle against a Klingon Negh'Var class flagship and several Klingon Birds of Prey inside of a nebula. If you don't know this nerd talk, a Negh'Var is the most powerful ship the Klingons have. WAY more than a match for poor Solitude. I had to survive for two minutes until a Starfleet Task force could reach me to assist. In the end I survived, but my ship had to limp back home and was in no condition to go on.

Upon my return to Earth Starbase, I was summoned to the Admiral's office. He congratulated me for exposing the Klingon task force hiding in the nebula and was honored to promote me to Lieutenant Commander. YEAHHHHHHH! I OWN! My first new orders were to report to spacedock for new crew and new assignment. WOO! I get a crew to order around! and spacedock? What could possibly be there waiting for me?  I hopped in a shuttle to find out.


What's this? A ship... looks Constitution class. Hmmm, let's check this out...


Definitely a sleek looking Federation Starship, but what does it have to do with me?


AWW YEAHHHH it's just like the end of Star Trek IV where it's the -A version of the... AWWWW MANNNNN!


So yeah, I got a new starship.  The U.S.S. Solitude-A.  It's so bad ass.  Look at how cool I look in the big chair.  Lieutenant Commander BITCHES!


This new bridge is so roomy, lots of room for iPod parties. Let's take this bad boy out for a spin...  ENGAGE!


Wow, I am the coolest guy and this is the coolest ship in the goddamn galaxy.


Oh yeah, and my all girl bridge crew is totally sweet, here's my Vulcan first officer T'Mimo telling me something totally important, but I'm way too busy with my Ryan Seacrest haircut and this Tribble, yo.

Ahem, perhaps I've gotten a little buried in my role.  Anyways, I left the game shortly after, but as you can see, I had a lot of fun.  I'll be back when the game's a little more polished and there's more to do. I'll also have more silly pictures of my exploits to share.  See you... (Shatner pause) out there!


5.18.2010

Goose-free bike ride

Much more relaxed, peaceful, and most importantly goose-free bike ride today with @Olaf330. This time we traveled north from the Bridge St. access to the I&M trail, and went 6 miles to Rock Run Preserve. The wind was against us the whole way and I began to lag behind a bit, but the way back was quite literally a breeze. I'm enjoying the exercise, it's good for old American gamers to get off their rear and get some exercise, I encourage more fat-asses to do the same. Here's a map for reference if you're ever brave enough to hop on a bike and hit the trail...

I&M Trail Channahon: Bridge St. to Rock Run.


5.05.2010

Geese are dicks

Just returned from another bike ride. I decided to tackle the next section of the trail down Cemetery Rd. here in Channahon. I'd been anxious to try out the bike ever since @olaf330 gave the crappy old thing a new lease on life with his bike repair skills. He wasn't around, so I went alone, which may have turned out to be a mistake.

Things were going great until I ran into a family of geese, complete with goslings... Awww, how cute. I decided I'd take a picture to show the wife. I stopped the bike and readied the iPhone camera. What I didn't realize is that geese are very protective of their young. And by protective, I mean total dicks. They started hissing at me, and raising their wings. I quickly snapped the pic and decided it was time to get my black ass outta there.

Within seconds of snapping the photo above, the goose was airborne and heading toward me. I turned and pedaled, for some reason believing I could outrun a large bird in mid-flight. He passed right overhead, forcing me to duck on my bike, and with the skill of a surgeon, or possibly a ninja, he placed himself directly above and slapped the bejesus out me with his giant wing. It's a sting that lingers even now. I finally escaped the shocking and grizzly attack with only minor injuries.

So what's the lesson here? Well if you see a family of geese in the wild, my advice is to leave them be...

Or they'll murder you.

I&M Trail Channahon: Cemetery Rd. to Gun Club Rd.