Using a low cost HDTV antenna to gain access to lots of free over the air digital TV channels

I talked previously about how I saved a bunch of money by ditching cable. When I first disconnected my cable, my HDTV’s built-in scanner was only able to pick up two two stations. While this was better than nothing, I figured given the size of our city there had to be more content available. So I started doing some research, and came across the Leaf Indoor HDTV antenna. The reviews were pretty solid, and a number of people claimed that they went from no channels to dozens of channels. I had to give this a try for myself.

My order from Amazon arrived within a week. The antenna is paper thin, and one side of the antenna is white and the other is black. This allows you to blend in the antenna if you mount it to a white wall, or attach it to the back of a black TV (why are all TVs black?). The Leaf comes with a coax connecter that you can plug into your TV. Once I mounted my Leaf (connector down) and attached it to my TV, I was blown away when the scan picked up over two dozen stations. See for yourself:

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I was blown away, and the quality of the HDTV content is exceptional. Gotta love some free tv!

A couple of cool Illumos videos

I’ve been reading more about the Illumos project over the past few weeks. As most of my blog readers know, I’m a huge fan of Solaris and used to be quite active in the OpenSolaris community. My involvement in OpenSolaris came to an end in 2011 after the project was squashed by Oracle. I started investing my time in various Linux projects, and learning about new web technologies. Now that Illumos is starting to get some traction, I thought I wanted to see what was going on with the project.

There are a number of cool Illumos video out there. The first one I watched was Bryan Cantrill’s “Fork Yeah! The Rise and Development of illumos” video:

I have met and heard Bryan speak on several occasions, and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that he spoke his mind on this subject (honesty in IT, it’s what SHOULD be for dinner). Once I finished this video I watched Bryan’s video on Joyent’s “Experiences Porting KVM to SmartOS”:

There is a ton of amazing content on Youtube, and now that I ditched my cable I’m starting to watch a lot more cool technical videos. Amazing how much cool stuff you can learn on the tube of you.

A great introduction to ZFS de-duplication

I’ve been looking into deploying ZFS de-duplication, and I have one application in particular (backup staging) that would greatly benefit from it. George Wilson did an awesome introduction to ZFS de-duplication video, and it’s a great place to get started. I’m planning to start testing out de-duplication as soon as my SSDs are ordered, and hopefully I will have some positive results to report!

Using MySQL query logs to debug authentication issues

I recently installed LogAnalyzer, and after the install completed I noticed that nothing was being displayed in the web interface. I figured I fat fingered something, but needed a way to verify this. Luckily for me I was using MySQL, so I enabled MySQL query logging and low and behold I proved my hypothesis:

120212 12:09:33     6 Connect   rsyslog@localhost on
                    6 Init DB   Access denied for user 'rsyslog'@'%' to database 'Syslog'

To fix this I logged into the database and changed the password for the rsyslog user:

$ mysql -u root -h localhost –password
mysql> use Syslog

mysql> SET PASSWORD FOR rsyslog = PASSWORD (“XXXXXXXXX”);

Everything began working once the application could authenticate, and I was able to start playing around with LogAnalyzer. Noting this here in case I fat finger another password in the future. :)

An interesting way of looking at file system versioning (ZFS feature flags)

I got a chance to catch up with a bunch of stuff in my “need to read” / “need to watch” folder this past weekend. One of the videos I watched talked about ZFS feature flags, and how they will be used by the Illumos community to add new features to ZFS. ZFS feature flags make a lot of sense, and will definitely be invaluable once ZFS is extended by more than one organization. Cool video, and well worth the ten minutes it takes to watch it.

How I saved $80 a month on my cable and Internet bill

I was reviewing my cable bill last month and was floored that I was spending $120 a month for a DVR, cable and Internet access. This blew my mind, and I set out on a quest to lower my bill without losing access to quality content (I like to watch educational shows and documentaries). I had a couple of requirements prior to heading down this road:

1. I needed to be able to view shows on the major TV networks.

2. Internet bandwidth needed to be sufficient to stream movies from Hulu, Netflix or Apple.

3. Wanted to be able to access on content on demand.

None of my requirements called for cable tv, so the first thing I did was cancel my cable and return the cable box. I replaced my cable with HDTV over-the-air service, which I am obtaining through a Leaf indoor HDTV antenna. This paper thin antenna works great, and I am able to pick up crystal clear reception from the major networks, as well as a number of other stations I didn’t know were available. Can’t beat free!

Cutting cable saved me $60 a month, but I started to wonder if I could do more. I went back to my bill and noticed that I was being charged $7 a month to lease a modem, and my Internet service was running me $43 a month. After a bit of research I realized you can purchase a modem, so I picked up a Motorola SB6121 SURFboard DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem (if you decide to buy your own modem make sure you get a model that works with your cable provider) for $40 and returned the modem I was leasing. This purchase will pay for itself in 6-months, and after that I will begin saving $7 a month. Nice!

So with two relatively minor changes I was saving $67 a month. Could I do more? Well it appears I could. I went out to a competitors website and started looking at their Internet rates. They have a plan similar to mine that was $13 less a month, so I called my cable provided and told them I was going to switch. They transferred me to their retention department who offered me the same plan as their competitor, which chopped another $13 off my bill. So if I you add up the $60 I saved from cable, the $7 I saved by purchasing a modem and the $13 monthly reduction in Interent service I’m now saving $80 a month! I still need to find a good way to stream movies and documentaries, and ideally I would like it to work with the roku digital video player. How are my readers watching movies and documentaries in the digital world?