Upgrade to LED Headlights

Submitted by Brad Tombaugh on 15 March 2019 - 1:38pm

One of the most noticeable changes when switching from the Touareg to the Canyon was the headlights. The Touareg had really nice self-leveling High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps. By comparison, the OEM halogens in the Canyon felt like driving with a flashlight... I found that this was a common complaint discussed on forums like ColoradoFans forums and took one of the recommendations.

Running better...

Submitted by Brad Tombaugh on 10 December 2018 - 7:25pm

OK, I haven't posted much for a while, so I thought that I should provide some updates. I have resolved the previous upgrade issues that I had with Drupal 8, and also had MacHighway move me to a CPanel server that was running PHP7, which seemed to have helped.

MacBook Pro to iMac

Submitted by Brad Tombaugh on 27 October 2017 - 7:20pm
After continuing to have trouble with my old 2011 17" MacBook Pro, I've concluded that it's time for a new machine. I tried replacing the RAM, but it still won't boot up. I concluded that it probably wasn’t the memory or the drive, but maybe the CPU or Logic board is failing... Rather than spend more time and money trying to replace the SSD, I figured that it was time to replace the MacBook Pro, after 6 years. I surveyed my options on Apple.com. The new MacBook Pro’s only come in 13” and 15” now, with the Retina display with high resolution but high pixel density as well. None of the laptops have optical drives any more, so I still think that there is not much advantage in carrying around a laptop vs. my iPad Pro. When I have travelled that past few years, I have only taken my iPad with me. Also, the 15” MBP costs nearly $2,800! Having realized that I don’t really carry my laptop around with me, I checked out the options for iMacs. They have a 21.5” model, and a 27” with a 4K or 5K screen... Since I will likely be keeping this machine for another 5-6 years, I really wanted the 27” 5K screen model, which also has a faster 3.8GHz i5 processor, and a 2TB “fusion” drive, that is a hybrid small SSD with a larger conventional hard drive. The system is supposed to keep frequently used files on the SSD, and less frequently used files on the hard drive, to optimize the performance. The new iMac is a thing of beauty! I love the big screen, and the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse use up less space on my desk. I have ordered a 16Gb memory upgrade to bring it up to 24Gb, which I think will work well. I had 16Gb in the MBP.

Upgrade didn't go so well...

Submitted by Brad Tombaugh on 12 February 2017 - 7:54pm

So, last week I decided that it was time to upgrade from Drupal 6, since it was past it's end of life for support. I had dabbled with Drupal 7 a bit on my laptop, and had read through a couple of Drupal 7 books over the past year or so... The CPanel script installer kept nagging me that there was an upgrade to perform, and it appeared to have a script to go from 6 to 7... I took backups of all of the MySQL databases, put both of my sites into "Maintenance Mode" and disabled all of the non-core scripts, then let CPanel run the upgrade...

Boom! It didn't get through the update script without errors, and I decided to try the update.php script, and that threw errors as well.. I poked at for a couple of hours, trying to work through the issues. The first problem is that Drupal 6 kept a list of blocked IPs in a table, which Drupal 7 doesn't have, at least not when it tries running the update. I was able to find a tip with a script to create the missing table, which got me a bit further, but it continued to have issues.

I finally decided to try jumping up to Drupal 8, which has an updated "Migrate and Upgrade" module which supports both version 6 and 7. I restored the database back to their original condition, then created two fresh installs of Drupal 8 in separate directories. I enabled the migrate utility, and let it convert from the Drupal 6 databases, which was (more) successful.

Now I am struggling to put things back like they were. One of the issues is that none of the page views will display the "body" field, where most of the content is located. From the searching I have done on the web, it seems to be due to multi-language support in Drupal 7 and 8, but my Drupal 6 content isn't tagged with the language, so it may not be able to determine how to display the content?

Anyway, please bear with me as I study up on Drupal 8, and learn more about how "Views" work now, so that I can get the content to display again...

Good "Schiit" at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest

Submitted by Brad Tombaugh on 14 October 2016 - 9:56pm

Last weekend I was able to attend one day of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, which is held here in the Denver Tech Center, not far from me, along with fellow MacinTech members Rick Hyman and Jon Flowers.

I went through many of the vendor displays in the “CanJam” exhibit focused on Headphones and mobile/personal audio devices, and one of the most interesting things for me was from the Sennheiser booth. I have a set of Sennheiser HD600, which they had on display along with an HDVD 800, their $2,200 headphone amp, as well as an HD650, an HD800 and HD800S. What I noticed is that they were using balanced cables for all of them, where there are separate ground wires for each side, along with isolated, balanced amplifier modules.

Even in the noisy exhibit tent, all three of us could hear a marked difference between their demo units and my headphones, which I had brought with me. Even with the same model headphones plugged into the same amp, but with the standard cable using a shared ground, there was a noticeable improvement in the clarity in the high-end, better control in the bass, and a more open “sound stage” with the balanced cable.

Because the HD600 has a replaceable cable, it’s easy to upgrade to a four-wire balanced cable, and I found an “inexpensive” one from ZY for about $75 through Amazon.com. Sennheiser’s balanced cable is about $240, and “premium” cables go for about $330, which is more than I paid for the headphones!

To use balanced headphones, though, you also need a balanced headphone amplifier. There were lots of options on display at RMAF, either solid-state or tubes, but most of them were in the $4-7K range! One of the exhibitors, though, was Schiit, an American company that is making high-quality gear at more affordable prices. They have recently introduced a headphone amplifier with a built-in Digital/Analog Converter (DAC) module that is upgradeable, the Jotunheim, which sells for under $500! I was able to listen to it at the CanJam event, and was impressed enough that I ordered one from their website that night.

While I was anxious to try out the new amp when it arrived a couple of days ago, I started by playing the Sound Liaison recording of "The Old Man and the Sea" by BATIK through my existing portable DAC/amp, Teac HA-P50, and the original three-wire cable on the HD600. It sounded good, but didn't have the sparkle that I heard at RMAF. Next, I plugged the HD600 into the Jotunheim with 1/4" adaptor, and listened to the same track through the Jotunheim, but still with the standard three-wire cable. With the Jotunheim, both the bass and high-end were noticeably improved, and the sound was more detailed and had more dynamic punch. Finally, I opened up the ZY balanced cable, and carefully unplugged the stock cable from the HD600, and connected the balanced cable in its place. The ZY cable seems to be well made, with a Neutrik 4-pin male XLR connector, and nicely molded connectors for the Sennheiser headphones. The cable has a braided nylon jacket, with a shrink-wrap sleeve over the "Y" where the cables split for each earpiece. I plugged the XLR connector into the balanced jack on the Jotunheim, and restarted the same track again... This was another order of magnitude of improved clarity in the high-end, more solid and controlled bass, and a wider, more open sound stage.

Between the Jotunheim and balanced cable, the HD600 sounds like a completely different set of headphones. While I can't do side-by-side comparisons like I did at RMAF, I can tell that each step exposed more detail in the sound than I had been able to hear previously. I would have to believe that the people who criticize the Sennheisers as having a "veiled high-end" and lacking bass simply aren't driving them properly. With a decent balanced headphone amplified and balanced cable, the HD600 really comes to life. Considering that compared to most of the available audiophile offerings, this entire setup has cost less than $1,000, which would be considered pretty entry level, I feel like its delivering a pretty amazing audio experience.

New Trailer

Submitted by Brad Tombaugh on 23 April 2016 - 4:21pm

2016 Highland Ridge UT2710RLWe have still had our 27" Gulfstream fifth-wheel up in Buena Vista, CO, at the Snowy Peaks RV park, which has its own storage lot. Since I don't have a pickup truck to move the fifth-wheel, the RV park moves the trailer for us when we go up for the weekend.

New Volkswagen

Submitted by Brad Tombaugh on 26 March 2016 - 4:38pm

2016 Volkswagen Touareg Lux V6 4MOTIONThanks to the diesel emissions scandal, and the uncertainty of what kind of "fix" would be required to meet emissions, this seemed like the best time to try trading in my 2011 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI.

Mousejack

Submitted by Brad Tombaugh on 26 February 2016 - 12:33am

Speaking of Logitech (in my previous post) it also turns out that security research firm, Bastille, has uncovered a vulnerability in many USB wireless keyboards and mice where the USB "dongle" is easily hacked, allowing someone to connect to your computer and take over control of your keyboard... The list of manufacturers includes Dell, HP, Logitech and Microsoft.

See the details at the website created by Bastille, or one of the many news articles like this one at ComputerWorld.

The article has links to more information, a list of affected devices, and links to manufacturer support sites that have already posted software or firmware updates.

This only affects USB Wireless devices, not Bluetooth devices like the Apple keyboards and mice.

What Happened to Logitech?

Submitted by Brad Tombaugh on 26 February 2016 - 12:24am

I've had several Logitech keyboard/covers for my iPads over the years. In December, while traveling, I dropped my keyboard (and thankfully NOT the iPad) which bent the corner so that it no longer sits flat. When we got home from our trip, I ordered a replacement, the newer Ultrathin Magnetic Keyboard Cover for the iPad Air from Amazon.com. I was frustrated with myself that I had dropped the old one, but was excited about getting the new one, as it is thinner and lighter, and has an adjustable angle for the iPad's screen.

It arrived a few days later, and I plugged it in to charge it, then got it synched with my iPad Air. I began to notice problems almost immediately, as the keyboard would fall asleep when idle, but then not wake up when you pressed a key. I had to turn off the keyboard, and then back on again in order to get it to reconnect... About every 5 minutes!

Then, as I continued to try using it, I discovered that the screen would flash as the keyboard would send the signal to capture a screenshot periodically. One night, it took 57 screenshots as I tried to log in after turning the keyboard off and on, typing email, or trying to type a journal entry into DayOne... Now every time I sync, I have to open Photos and delete all of the extraneous screenshots that the keyboard has taken.

I ordered the keyboard through Amazon before we returned from our trip, and it arrived the day we got home. I opened a support case with Logitech on January 4th, after trying the troubleshooting steps from their website, to unlink the keyboard, turn off Bluetooth, relink, etc. None of which made any improvement.

After several rounds with support website to go through the symptoms and the things that I had tried, entering the model number and serial number of the keyboard, the model number of my iPad, scanning and uploading a copy of the receipt, clarifying my shipping address, etc. I was told that they only replacements they had available are Space Grey/Black. My iPad Aid is Silver/White. I really don't want to replace the keyboard with one that is the wrong color...

I would have simply returned the defective keyboard to the vendor, through Amazon.com, but I had bought the last Silver/White unit that they had in stock. They were unavailable through the end of January, when the 30-day return policy ran out, so I was stuck working with Logitech support.

At the end of January, Logitech marked my support case as "Resolved" and closed it, even though they still hadn't replaced the defective keyboard yet! I had to open a new support case, and reference the original one, which they reopened.

It's now the end of February. I still don't have a replacement keyboard yet. I can see that the Logitech online store has the Silver/White unit in stock, if I wanted to buy a new one. Looking on Amazon.com, the vendor that I bought the defective keyboard from has them back in stock now as well. Logitech support, however, maintains that the only units they have available are the Space Grey/Black. This tells me that they aren't going to replace my brand-new but defective keyboard with a new unit, they are going to ship me someone else's broken return that has been refurbished...

For many years, I have regarded Logitech as the premier manufacturer of keyboards and mice for either PC or Mac, and have recommended them frequently.

Recently, however, it seems that they have dropped Mac support for many of their products, even Bluetooth models like the DiNova Mini, which linked right up with my Mac mini and was recognized as a combo keyboard/trackpad, as well as the mk710, which BestBuy lists as Mac compatible, although it isn't indicated on the box.

It seems that their product quality has dropped considerably, so that they don't have the quality feel that they used to have. Their support is certainly no longer "world class" either...

I've just posted a rather harsh reply in my support case, saying that I've given up on using the crappy keyboard that I bought in December, and I can't wait any longer for a replacement. They might as well send me the wrong color refurb, as I'll likely throw it in the trash as soon as I can find a replacement that actually works...

So, who else makes Bluetooth keyboard covers for iPads? I'm sure that there are plenty of other options, which can't be any worse than the new but defective Logitech that I have now...