40 Odd Things About Me

A friend of mine posted her version on Facebook. I don’t like long posts on FB, so I’m making a blog post instead. I don’t do these often, but they are fun once in a while…

40 odd things about me. . .

  1. Do you like blue cheese? No
  2. Coke or Pepsi? Honestly, either is fine, but Stevia instead of sugar when possible.
  3. Do you own a gun? No
  4. Whiskey, tequila, vodka? Don’t like hard liquor.
  5. Hot dogs or Cheeseburgers? Cheeseburgers. Truthfully I prefer chicken burgers.
  6. Favorite food? Salmon
  7. What do you drink in the morning? Decaf coffee or peppermint tea.
  8. Can you do a 100 Pushups? No.
  9. Summer, Winter,Spring, Autumn? Summer
  10. Favorite hobby? Rowing
  11. Tattoos? None, but not ruling out a couple of small ones in the future.
  12. Do you wear glasses? Yes.
  13. Phobias? None.
  14. Nickname? None.
  15. Three drinks you drink? Water, Decaf coffee, tea, milk, juice.
  16. Do you believe in ghosts? Yes
  17. Biggest downfall? Anxiety.
  18. Rain or snow? Rain
  19. Piercings? None.
  20. Age? 37
  21. French fries or onion rings? None.
  22. Will 6 Friends Do This? Prob not
  23. Favorite color? Green
  24. Married? Nope.
  25. Can you whistle? Yes
  26. Where were you born? Red Deer, AB
  27. Brothers or sisters? One brother
  28. Ever Been Arrested? No
  29. Surgeries? Yes.
  30. Religious? No, but I have my beliefs
  31. Tub or Shower? Shower
  32. Like gambling? No.
  33. Are You Loyal? Yes
  34. Broken bones? My nose when I was young.
  35. How many TVs? One.
  36. What kind of car do you own? Fiat 500 Sport 2012
  37. Do you like to dance? Yes, particularly when I’ve had too much alcohol or caffeine
  38. Are your parents still alive? Yes, my Mom.
  39. Do you like camping? No. Maybe RVing. I can’t sleep well unless it’s a regular bed.
  40. Dream job? A well paying journalism job. I’ll settle for IT or Social Media.

What is 5G and What Can it Be Used For?

A friend of mine recently asked me what 5G is all about. I did my best to give him a quick summary off the top of my head, but honestly, these videos do a much better job. So I shared them with him, and I’m doing so here as well.

Mr Mobile’s 5G Test Drive
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1D6w-7Zav8

5G Test Drive Part 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR3Oq0j5nHQ

Marques Brownlee – 5G Explained
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CTUs_2hq6Y

Wall Street Journal – We Tested 5G Across America. It’s Crazy Fast—and a Hot Mess
https://www.wsj.com/articles/all-the-reasons-not-to-buy-a-5g-phone-right-now-11563467389?redirect=amp

Ars Technica – 5G on the horizon: Here’s what it is and what’s coming
https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/12/5g-wont-change-everything-or-at-least-probably-not-your-things/

Why We Have Decided to Leave Vancouver Island and What’s Next

NOTE: Post updated to reflect recent events.

Life in Courtenay

We have lived in Comox/Courtenay for over a year and a half. It’s beautiful and we enjoy being here, and the near lack of winter is very appealing, but we’ve reached the point where we can no longer afford to live here.

For the last 8 months, we have paid $2,000 per month in rent. It wasn’t our first choice, but it’s what was available that was decent quality (seriously, that’s average rent for a 3 bedroom here), and we know they’ll have no problem renting it out again once we give our notice. The trouble is the demand and severe lack of affordable housing and the cost of what does exist. What we’re paying is pretty close to average, but that doesn’t make it okay, but it is the accepted reality.

Our House in Leduc

Our house in Leduc, Alberta was for sale for months (like many in Alberta). We finally received an offer this week and accepted it. In preparation in recent months, we have been eagerly researching over that time and that tells us that almost nothing is available anywhere on Vancouver Island that suits us, or at least that we can afford.

Update: The offer fell through. So the Leduc house is back on the market.

Moving to Lethbridge

So, after many hours of discussions, we’re moving back to Alberta. Specifically Lethbridge. While we had the offer on the Leduc house, we managed to find a house in Lethbridge that we loved, and even did a showing and inspection as part of our house hunting trip. Unfortunately, since the Leduc offer fell through, so did that Lethbridge house offer.

So, we researched rentals online and came across an apartment (condo) in west Lethbridge that we like, and secured it today. It’s very similar to the buildings shown above.

It’s a bit smaller than what we’re currently renting, but it’s certainly good enough for potentially the next few months until our Leduc house SELLS (not just an offer).

We absolutely will not fall victim again to pinning our hopes and dreams on an offer. We will wait until it’s done and the money is in the bank. Then, and only then, will we research houses, do any showings, or put in any offers.

Why Lethbridge?

I lived there for 3 1/2 years, partly during college, about a decade ago and enjoyed it, and I’m familiar with it. But the real reason is of the places we considered moving to, Lethbridge currently just happens to have the most to offer that matches what we’re looking for in affordable housing.

This wasn’t the plan

We have known since day one that housing prices are more expensive here. More expensive than in Alberta, but certainly less expensive that on Mainland BC. So, for a variety of reasons, we moved to Courtenay. A year and a half later, and housing prices haven’t stopped increasing, nor has rent. We love the fact it’s a smaller community that seemingly has a decent variety of housing options, but our research since has indicated what we’re now looking for is in short supply (2 or 3 bedroom with a legal suite or can easily be turned into a legal suite), and you get less for your money than in Alberta.

We even looked at places like Ottawa. We’re reasonably happy with housing prices there, but we don’t really want to move across the country right now.

A general example – a fairly new (1970s to more recent) and decent 3 bedroom 2 bath house with a main level (there are few basements here) suite or potential suite is $500,000 to $600,000 or more (sometimes less if you’re lucky), and even then they’re somewhat older, often need renos and to be developed, and only the potential to be a legal suite, including it’s own kitchen or kitchenette, and separate entrance. You can find the same thing in Alberta for $300,000 to roughly $400,000 range that is newer, needs little or no renos, and offers more value.

Another quick example – we also considered two separate apartments, condos, half duplexes, or townhomes in Comox and Courtenay. Those apparently start at between $300,000 to $400,000 each, so we absolutely cannot afford two of them.

So, basically an additional $100,000 to $200,000 or more just for the privilege of being able to live on Vancouver Island. For one, we can’t afford that. Secondly, we’re not sure the benefits justify it.

Comox Marina
Deer in a Comox neighborhood

It’s certainly beautiful here, especially the ocean (Georgia Strait), the local wildlife, and the close to lack of winter most of the time is certainly appealing, and the people are mostly great, but to us it just doesn’t justify the extra cost. Honestly, we’d rather save the money and go on vacations or cruises in the years to come. So that’s what we’re going to do.

Ridiculous Cost of Housing

It’s unbelievable how many people seem to agree that the cost of rent here is too high, yet so many insist on charging top dollar simply because they can because of the fact it’s Vancouver Island. Others are doing the same, and enough people are willing to pay it.

I was getting my hair cut the other day, and the lady was saying her friend somehow managed to get a rental in Campbell River (45 minutes north of Comox). The rent is high there, too, yet 20 people applied for that place alone. She said it, and I’ve heard it before, that people from places like Vancouver are unable to afford the sky-high rent there, so those that can move here do, and seemingly help drive prices up, because it’s apparently still cheaper then where they’re coming from.

People must know that contributes to the housing crisis, homelessness, and poverty, right?! Whatever happened to charging a reasonable amount, making some money, and giving people a place to call home that they can afford?! People seem to agree, but nothing changes. In fact, it’s getting worse.

A friend told me a couple of weeks ago that they had to use the local Food Bank. They were very busy, and while in line, staff commented that usage has DOUBLED in the past year, but resources (staff, donations) have not.

Conclusion

Anyway, that’s the story of why we’re moving to Lethbridge after having spent a year and a half on Vancouver Island. It’s made for one hell of a year, but we’re glad to be starting this new chapter in our lives with more emotional, mental, and financial stability.

How To Upgrade to Windows 7 to Windows 10 For Free While You Still Can (Until January 14 2020)

If you’re using Windows 7, you’ve likely seen this message. Like it or not, support for Windows 7 is ending. That doesn’t mean Windows 7 will cease to work. It does mean that Microsoft will stop providing free updates for it as of January 14, 2020. If your computer is connected to the internet, that matters. Any issues or security problems won’t be patched or fixed beyond that date, leaving computers vulnerable to being taken advantage of or compromised.

Suffice to say, it’s had a good run, but it’s time to upgrade, and you might as well do so for FREE until January 14, 2020. Windows 10 is, for most people, a completely worthy upgrade, and will last you another 10 years, hopefully mostly problem free. Yes, there are some changes, but the learning curve isn’t huge, particularly with a couple of “tweaks”.

Go to this page on Microsoft’s website to download the Media Creation Tool. It’s free, and will scan your computer to ensure it qualifies for Windows 10. If your system is in fact 10 years old, it might not. But if it’s newer, hopefully it will.

Once Windows determines your system qualifies, either choose “Upgrade This PC Now” or “Create Installation Media”. I’d recommend the second option, as it provides more peace of mind since the installation files won’t be located on the same hard drive (or SSD) you’re trying to upgrade in case something goes wrong.

After Windows installs the files on your external hard drive or USB thumb drive, run the “setup” file from there, and it’ll walk you through the steps to upgrade to Windows 10. The amount of time it takes will vary depending on your computer, how old it is, if you’re using and SSD or not, among other factors.

Suffice to say, the upgrade should go quite smoothly. Windows 10 will ask you a bunch of questions on how you’d like it to be setup post-install. Read those carefully, as some relate to privacy and how you Windows will behave and how data collected will be used.

The screen above is after I’ve changed some settings and installed a few programs. Otherwise, this is what Windows 10 looks like.

By the way, I highly recommend either Ninite or PatchMyPC (both FREE) to install various free programs all at once. Go have coffee or tea, come back and it’ll be done.

Be sure to check Windows Update to ensure you have all the latest updates installed as well. (Start Menu > type “Windows Update” and click it, OR Start Menu > Control Panel > Updates and Security)

To view information about your PC and Windows 10, open the Control Panel (Start > type “Control Panel” w/o quotes), then click on “System”.

This isn’t the default (factory settings) Start Menu. Since the day I started using Windows 10, my first install is “Classic Shell“. It’s free, and makes it look closer to what the Start Menu looked like in Windows 7. I have recommended it for years, and everyone I’ve installed it for loves it.

That’s it. You’ve just upgraded to Windows 10. Personally, I love it, and especially for the fact I got it legitimately for FREE! I’m a serious computer geek, and it’s been reliable for me since day one! Hopefully it treats you just as well! 🙂

What To Do When Weewx Stops Updating and Sending Data to Meteotemplate – Part 10

From the Beginning: An Introduction – Part 1

Previous: Publishing Weather Station Data to Third Party Websites – Part 9

After using Weewx and Meteotemplate the past couple of years, I noticed that sometimes Weewx randomly stops updating and/or sending data to my Meteotemplate website, Twitter, and other services.

Sometimes, the fix is simply to run a software update on the Raspberry Pi and restarting the Raspberry Pi. Other times, directly restarting Weewx itself is the solution.

As per this page of this guide, run the software update in Terminal using these commands:

  1. sudo apt-get update (and press enter and wait until it’s done)
  2. sudo apt-get upgrade (and press enter and wait until it’s done)
  3. Then restart your Raspberry Pi. Type “sudo reboot” (w/o quotes) Or Start Menu > Shutdown > Reboot

To restart Weewx itself, open Terminal, and copy/paste this:

sudo /etc/init.d/weewx restart (and press enter)

From the Beginning: An Introduction – Part 1

Previous: Publishing Weather Station Data to Third Party Websites – Part 9

What To Keep in Mind When Including a Powerpoint in Your Toastmasters Speech

I have been a member of a few Toastmasters clubs over the years. I have noticed on a few occasions that although speeches have been prepared, some have been unprepared regarding their Powerpoint presentations and proper setup.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

– If using an existing computer:

IF the computer in the room is logged in, it should be easy enough to plug in a USB thumb drive (assuming ports are available) and open the presentation (assuming Powerpoint is installed). Ensure the projector HDMI cable is connected to the back of the computer, press the power button on the wall panel or on the projector itself, and it should be good to go.

– Bring your laptop anyway as a “Plan B”.

Ensure it has an HDMI port, or bring an HDMI adapter that the projector’s HDMI cable can plug into. If it’s not the same computer you created the presentation on, confirm that either Powerpoint or Open Office (Google it, it’s free) is installed.

– Presentation Clicker

Although it’s not required for a Powerpoint presentation, it’s quite handy to have a wireless bluetooth clicker ($20 on Amazon, or maybe your club or members can share the expense?). It’ll make your speech and presentation go more smoothly as well, since you’re not rushing over to the laptop to press the “next” arrow key on the keyboard after each slide.

If your laptop doesn’t need to always be plugged in, the less cables in the way, the better! It’s best to have the laptop screen in front of you mirroring what’s on the projector screen behind you, so you’re not looking back to check after every slide to make sure it’s on the right slide or has moved on to the next slide.

– Bring an HDMI cable with you

Don’t assume one will be provided. Knowing technology the way it is, cables don’t always work. So I strongly suggest bringing your own just in case anyway. Better to invest in a longer one than a shorter one, just make sure people don’t trip over it. Ensure it is long enough to reach your laptop.

– Powerpoint vs Open Office

I haven’t used Microsoft Office for many years, and I don’t miss it. Open Office (free and open source, meaning community developed) is awesome! However, pay attention to the file format you’re saving files in. Don’t save the file with the “.ODT” file extension if you’re going to open it in Powerpoint. It won’t work. Save it in the “.PPT” file format. “.PPTX” should work as well, but NOT if the computer is running an older version of Office.

– Save your presentation in a couple of different places

It’s quick and easy to save your presentation on your laptop. Don’t save it to “the cloud” such as Google Drive or Dropbox, unless you KNOW your device works with the WIFI well at where you’re giving your presentation. Save it to your laptop AND to a couple of thumbdrives or an external hard drive.

In Conclusion…

You don’t want to be scrambling to make things work minutes before your speech and presentation, so please plan ahead. 🙂

How to Backup DVDs and Stream Them on Plex to Watch On Your Roku

Let me be perfectly clear: I am absolutely NOT promoting the idea of piracy here, nor sharing the DVD content online or in any way, redistributing, or selling the DVDs or content in any way.

Over the years, my family and I have collected countless TV series and movies on DVD and they’ve been taking up room on shelves. Over the years, we (Dad and I) have been slowly going through them and ripping many of them to our computers for backup purposes, and more recently to stream via the Plex app to our Roku devices to watch on our TVs. DVDs can take up a lot of space, and they get scratched easily.

After Dad passed a little over 3 years ago, I have continued that tradition. It’s a tedious and time consuming process, but has allowed us to donate a lot of them to second hand stores after we’ve ripped them. We can’t be bothered to try and sell them online, and we’re not sure it’s even legal to do.

Most recently, I got The Rifleman series on DVD from a seller on eBay. Here is the process I used to rip them – again, solely for backup purposes and for streaming to our own TVs using Plex and Roku.

The program I use to rip the DVDs to my hard drive is MakeMKV. It’s free. Start by clicking ‘File’, then ‘Open disc’, then select the DVD drive.

MakeMKV will then scan the DVD for content.

Next, MakeMKV will show the content it has found categorized as each ‘title’ or episode. All titles will be selected by default. I recommend leaving that alone. Then under ‘Output folder’ click the folder icon and tell MakeMKV where to rip the contents of the DVD to as individual episodes in MKV format. Then click the hard drive icon with the green arrow under ‘Make MKV’.

On this screen, MakeMKV is ripping the individual episodes to your hard drive. Once that’s done, close MakeMKV and open Handbrake to convert the MKV files to MP4 (M4V) format, which will stream easier on Plex, and be a MUCH smaller file size in M4V format. (1.XGB vs 150MB+)

Open Handbrake, click ‘Open Source’, then ‘File’.

Navigate to the folder and MKV files you want to convert to MP4 (M4V) format, and click ‘open’.

Handbrake has now loaded that MKV file. Simply click ‘Browse’ on the bottom right to tell it where to save the MP4 (M4V) file. Then click ‘Add to Queue’, then ‘Start Queue’.

The conversion process will take some time (5-10 minutes in my experience) depending on the size of the file you’re converting. You can see the real-time progress in detail at the bottom.

Repeat this process for every MKV file you want to convert. That being said, you can also do a ‘Batch Scan’ and add multiple episodes to the Queue and Handbrake will do them all, but you MUST tell it where to save each converted file using the two-step process below.

To convert many MKV files to M4V format at once, click ‘Open Source’ then ‘Batch Scan’. Then select ‘Title’, and one by one (no way around this), click them, then ‘Browse’ to tell Handbrake where to save each M4V file, then ‘Add to Queue’, and repeat the process for each episode. Then click ‘Start Queue’, and go have coffee or lunch or something. It’s going to take a while. You can do other things on your computer at the same time, but I wouldn’t recommend anything intensive as to take it easy on your computer.

Once all your MKV files are converted to M4V format, the files will have a MUCH smaller file size. This screenshot and the next one illustrate that. The MKV file is 1.84GB. The M4V file is 178MB. Significantly smaller.

This step is optional, but once you convert all the files to M4V format, I suggest deleting the MKV files to free up a lot of hard drive space.

Once you’ve finished converting all of your DVDs from each season of a TV show, you will NEED to organize them into folders for each series, season, and name them appropriately for Plex to know what to do with them. For example, Season 1 Episode 1 could be ‘S01E01’. I do this manually, but there might be a program that will do it for you. This also allows Plex to pull information from IMDB for the TV series and each episode.

Open Plex on your “server”, or the computer running Plex that your media is stored on. Scroll down on the left pane, and click ‘Libraries’. Then click ‘Add Library’.

Click the category of media that you want to apply to the media folder you want Plex to use, and give it a name in Plex, then click ‘Next’.

On this screen, browse to the folder on your computer you want to add to Plex.

This is an example of what Show Page might look like after it’s added and you browse to it within Plex.

(You may notice it looks like I’ve ripped a lot of stuff in the left pane. That’s honestly not the case. It just shows multiple folders I’ve added from stuff I’ve ripped over the years and haven’t organized as well as I should. Once I better organize it on my computer and in Plex, less will show up there.)

Here is what a particular season of a TV show might look like in Plex.

That’s it. It’s really not very complicated, just a few steps involved. If you do it a few times, you’ll get used to it. This was certainly a learned process, so I’m happy to share my experiences. 🙂

As We Approach the Holidaze…

I saw this tweet thread a few weeks ago, and think it’s great advice! Apologies for the delay in posting this.

Read the rest of Alex’s tweet thread here.

My Leduc Weather Station is Going Offline Today (Sept 25 2019)

Our house in Leduc, Alberta has not yet sold. However, my brother has moved to condo and took his internet connection with him.

Click image to view larger version

As a result, my weather station has been turned off, and will be removed from our garage roof this week. It is no longer uploading weather data and current conditions to Leducweather.ca, Weather Underground, among others, nor to it’s Facebook page or Twitter account.

Despite our attempts to get friends to set it up at their places, so far no one has yet expressed interest. As a last resort, my brother will request approval from his condo board to install it on his condo roof (2 stories tall, which shouldn’t be an issue so long as Winter doesn’t hit first), or to attach it to a tall pole on his deck railing.

Click image to view larger version

The worst case scenario is that he puts my weather station and it’s related equipment in a box and sends it to me on Vancouver Island (as we already have two here – Comox Weather and Courtenay Weather), where it will stay in a box until we move at some point to a new rental that will allow it, or buy a house and install it there.

Click image to view larger version
Click image to view larger version
Click image to view larger version
Click image to view larger version

That said, I would like to take a moment to reflect on how important my weather station at our house in Leduc has been to me, and what it took to install it. It was a tireless effort by my brother, David, and I. He created the wooden block that secured it to the garage roof, and we both took turns in the grueling effort to get up on the ladder and screw several long screws by hand into the garage roof (it demanded a gentle touch, especially being up on a ladder with only pavement below). Had it not been for his efforts and help, my beloved weather station wouldn’t have had the perfect placement in our yard for the most accurate readings possible.

As for getting it online and upload and tweeting current conditions, you’ll have to read my Create Your Own Weather Station Website blog series for all that geeky goodness!

I have always loved anything weather-related, but it wasn’t until I purchased this weather station that I really started to have fun with it, beyond conversations with other weather enthusiasts on Social Media, and of course Josh Classen‘s undeniable and contagious enthusiasm and passion since I first met him in 2003!

You never realize how different localized weather can be at times vs general area forecasts until you have your own weather station, and that just makes you appreciate it even more! Having my own weather stations has been a true joy, and this weather station in Leduc was my first, so it will always hold a special place in my heart!

I can only hope others have appreciated it as well! 🙂

An Analysis on Climate Change and Why Most People React the Way We Do.

I came across an excellent and thought-provoking article that a friend of mine posted on Twitter. It’s a very long read, but does an excellent job explaining why, despite knowing about Climate Change and the Climate Crisis, most people aren’t doing enough to address it. Simply put – we don’t perceive it as enough of a threat to us right now.

Here are some excerpts from that article that really stand out to me:

“Most people get the basic idea. And when yet another dire report is issued by scientists, people do pay attention – for a few minutes, at least, before their thoughts return to the latest political imbroglio, taxes, work, the hockey game and the thousands of other concerns that consistently beat climate change in the battle for our attention.”

“Our species evolved in environments where subatomic weirdness was irrelevant to surviving and reproducing, so we never developed an intuitive grasp of it; while we may understand it, we cannot feel it.”

“As forward-looking as our species was, ancient risk analysis was about survival in the here and now. Or at least the nearby and soon. Finally, it had nothing to do with statistics, probability and the other tools of modern risk analysis. These didn’t exist. Its raw material was experience, and its analytical mechanisms were intuitive. Risks were not calculated. They were felt.

“Scientists have informed me that when I drive my gasoline-powered car, the car emits carbon dioxide into the air, which makes the atmosphere an ever-so-slightly more efficient heat-trapping blanket. If I multiply my car’s emissions by one billion cars and thousands more greenhouse-gas sources and seven billion people and 150 years of industrialization, the total is big trouble. I know this. We all do.”

“But the last time I got in my car, drove and got out, there was no perceptible change. I suffered no harm. No one did. The same is true of the time before that. And the time before that. Not once in the hundreds of times I have driven has anything bad happened. And look around at all the other drivers and all the other cars and all the trips being taken without anything bad happening to anyone.”

The decision-making system capable of understanding the danger is incapable of ringing our internal alarm bell. The system that can raise the alarm cannot grasp the threat because it was shaped by the world as it was millenniums ago, not the world we live in now.

Our past endangers our future.