Computer History – Pricing

Having been into computers for decades the one thing I’ve noticed is the normal price brake for a USEABLE base model computer.  Since my Atari and  Apple II days, the high end, or best computer models always ran about $1200.00. To this day, this price point has continued to hold true.

If you want a computer that will be functional and not go obsolete in a couple of years, expect to pay around $1200. This does not include printers and other peripherals and add ons..

Cheaper options include upgrading an older computer.  You can upgrade RAM and Hard drives that’ll help but most of the time only a stop gap solution.  Giving you a year or so of usability.

This price does not include extended warranties. Plus just because you spend $1200 doesn’t mean you will get a good computer. If I recall IBM and Coleco produced computers that were just junk at any price. Again, just my thoughts.

3D Printing, at last.

For years I’ve been trying to find a 3d printer that works reliably and has good support. Started off with a Makerbot kit, which worked well, for awhile. Then Makerbot went crazy with the pricing and went private, so I lost heart in the company.

From there we switched to Solidoodle 3, Supported Solidoodle Press though a kickstarter, took almost two years to receive and NEVER got a good print out of the unit. The unit looked great though. Back and forth with tech support to the point that they wanted me to send back unit for repair. Which I never did, thank goodness. They were out of business weeks later.

A few weeks ago I received notice from Robo, that they were discounting remaining R1+ units, I jumped at it. So far the unit has printed everything I’ve requested, even prints that took 8 hours. A total first.

The units LEDs stopped working, so I contacted Robo, after a few trouble shooting emails, I have new Lights and a have received answers to all my issues quickly and without a lot of template replies. Fantastic printer at low cost.

FlightAware – PiAware

FlightAware was easy to setup and great fun to use. Can track flights flying over your head leaving contrails spoiling your beautiful blue sky. Get the story about a plane and its current flight. Sharing your data with FlightAware gives you free access to their Enterprise plan, well worth it.

Basically you setup a Raspberry Pi, with a ADS receiver which monitors the airwaves for ADS data from flights within range. The area I live in is rather hilly, so at first I wasn’t happy with the units range so I added an external antenna which dramatically increased my systems range. All and all the system cost about $150. You leave it running, then can remotely monitor you PiAware unit over your network through a browser. Plus you can access your data directly from FlightAware’s site, well your data anyway.

Was able to monitor flights in real time.

You can overlay current weather. You can also spend more for better antennas and higher antenna mounting, which would improve you stations reception.

All and all, great fun, nice use of a Raspberry Pi.

 

Observation – Video

For the last few days I’ve been converting old 8mm film to digital and I’ve made some observations. The first is the ‘video’s are short, like old YouTube Videos, only 2 or 3 minutes long. Second, people didn’t know how to focus which  I am sure this was caused by the technology itself not really allowing much ‘reviewing while recording’.  What you shot was what you got, in most cases it was garbage. And people paid lots of money for it, film, developing, etc. And sadly I haven’t found a cheap reliable way to convert film to digital. But haven’t given up hope.

There was no sound either. I had to edit the videos and remove the sounds made by the converting process.

In the end I was able to covert 22 8mm files and a Hi8 tape to MKV and MOV. Taking about 5 gb of space of a total of 16 gb thumb drive. I also provided copies of media players and instructions for use on the thumb drive.

The Cloud – Really!

Just thinking:

After watching the development of “The Cloud” as a marketing tool for software companies, I’ve decided it is a con, a way for the developer to control the user and milk them for more money.

There are a many ways to utilize “The Cloud” the two major ones are as a personal storage space like DropBox, OneDrive (and its many incarnations) and iCloud, and then there is the way Nest and many many Phone apps developers  store your data on their servers for ‘security reasons’. Which is just a nice way of saying, oh yeah, we will charge you an unnecessary amount each month to use their app. After you have a few of these apps, the monthly charges really add up.

What happened to Individual Cloud storage, putting your own NAS on the internet and using that? (Hint: Most users don’t hold the skills to setup, no offense), or their ISP makes it almost impossible.. So everyone has to pay more for less.

 

New Weather Station – 1 of 2

After a long absences I’ve finally be able to return to my technology projects.

The first one I needed to get out of the way is the weather station. Had built one a few years back, but it was destroyed by an ice storm. Therefore I had to built a new one with a more permanent foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attempted to make the system completely wireless but somehow no matter what I tried it would be limited in one way or another. So I ended up using a Raspberry Pi that has a UPS board attached to network using a POE adapter. So the Pi gets its power from the network, although the Pi connects to the network wirelessly. And since we had to run one wire, we ended up pulling a 12 volt dc wire also, this allows the addition of more ‘features’ to the pole.

As you can see there are 4 solar panels, 2 – 6 volt and 2 – 12 volt. At this point they are only being used for a string WS 2801 RGB LEDs powered through solar chargers. Sort of controlled Christmas lights. I am attempting to make the LEDs controllable from web site.

The Weather Station consists of an Arduino with a Sparkfun Weather board and sensor array, with a lightning detector attached. A Raspberry Pi connects to the Arduino and a Relay modular.  Currently everything is crammed into a plastic project box mounted on the pole. Will clean it up once new boxes come in.

My neighbors have a hill behind their house, the hill top is about 300 feet away and the hill is maybe 50 feet high. My plan is to add another weather pole on top of the hill, to see how that affects wind and temperature.

 

 

New Office and lots of networks upgrades.

Our new world wide headquarters (ROFL), are almost complete. Basically a 14×14 foot office with storage room that doubles as a network room. We have power, AC, network, internet, TV and work areas. Everything a small development company needs. We have programs in development and electronic projects on the boards. Hopefully we’ll be posting more projects soon, though we might start with a few project updates:

  • Our Outdoor Sensor Array, will be connected to our solar panels and updated to our new offices needs.
  • Lighting and sound systems.
  • Network improvements

Hope to be posting again soon.

Relocation – Almost complete

After 33 years working for the same company in MIami, my wife and I decided it was time for a change. Giving up the city life and moving full time to our vacation home in the hills of Tennessee.

Moving from a metro area where static ip numbers were easy and cheap to come by to an area where they are almost nonexistant. The ISP here has a odd configuration, making it difficult if not impossible to put a server online. For years I’ve used no-ip.org DSN to access remote cameras, odd thing was you couldn’t access them locally with using a totally different setup. It worked, but now that we are here full time, I am unwilling to jump through all the hoops. A solution must be found.

So far I can get all my network hardware, switches, RAIDS, servers, everything to work fine locally. But I need to find a way to access the network from the outside, using an ever changing IP number.

How do I set my domain/web site dns records? Tried using the domain name I use with no-ip, but GoDaddy requires a ip number.

The local isp will provide a ip number to business class customers for $99 a month. Supposedly with faster speeds!

Will continue to try new ideas, and keep the world informed of the results.


Well, it has been over two weeks. With almost nightly internet ‘outages’, where connection to internet is lost requiring a hard restart of the modem. Guess it could be modem, but still haven’t found a way to get servers on line. SO, as a last resort I’ve decided to get a Business line, same lame 6m down and 1m upload speed, but it comes with a static IP number and I can buy more in blocks of 5 at $20 a month. Not bad. HOWEVER.. After calling last night to confirm a morning visit between 9am and 12 noon. No one ever arrived. And at about 1pm, it start pouring. So, it is unlikely anyone will come to day to finish the upgrade to Business as scheduled. Perhaps tomorrow! – Modem died again last night.

Oh, and upgrading to Business Class is only $60 a month, not the $99 I originally reported. Lets see if it really works out to that amount when we receive the first/second bill..


Things are finally working as they should, but it wasn’t easy.

First the “normal” routers provided by my ISP did’t route network traffic correctly. All my computers could get to internet, but they couldn’t see my local web server, but people out of state COULD.

I attempted to setup a local DNS server, it didn’t help.  I toyed with local and wan IP numbers. This would REVERSE the issue, I could see the server, but people outside couldn’t.

Finally, I got a support guy that understood his job. He provided me with a  ‘non-standard’ modem. We were able to setup my account to log in and get correct settings, my 1 IP was really at least 3, each having its own purpose. I had to move my server to a computer with 2 nic ports, and assign one with an external and one with an internal IP.  I figured this would cause a LOOP since they both plugged into the router, it did not. However I did move the internal NIC port to my managed switch, and left the external port directly plugged into router.

I am not 100% sure of my total MONTHLY cost yet. But both my upload and download speeds are faster. The servers and network devices can all be managed as expected now, and the modem doesn’t require nightly reboots.  – Oh, this only took over 2 months!


After a few months with the new Business Class account we are happy with results overall. When we do have issues we call, we get service the next day. For almost two weeks we had daily slow downs to less than 2 mbs (ouch). We would contact support (though online chat) and get support on the spot. After two ‘calls’ we received a visit from a tech, who did something down the road that seemed to improve our service. No where near our ‘city speeds’ but good enough.

Now to enjoy country living!