Logikal Blog

Thoughts and words from Roland Hughes

November 26, 2015

Sangean RCR-5 Clock Radio

I have to say, I have fallen in love with this thing. During the summer I was working a contract in the city of Chicago. The corporate housing unit I was in was just a few short blocks from WBEZ. There was no clock radio provided in the unit. Rather than trying out one of the el-cheapo GE units I had in storage at home, I opted to pick up a $13 Target special which, according to the reviews, worked well in the NPR frequency range. What a joke! Inside the new high rise building it picked up only noise and interference. I could barely find stations which would come in on it.

Yes, my cell phone has alarms. Yes, I use them. When it comes to waking up in the morning though, I like to lay there listening to the news for a bit and have the cell phone alarm go off at that “you have to really rush to make it” time. Maybe it is a generational thing. I have noticed kids prefer to get news on-line, if at all. I look on-line all of the time, but that is what I do, look. I search for a topic or simply look for a list of headlines to see if there is anything worth my time. Obtaining a valid list of headlines is increasingly difficult given the fraudulent practice of sandwiching in “sponsored” articles as well as “fake news” articles which are little more than sales pitches. Perhaps it comes from growing up on and still helping with a family farm. Long hours spent in a tractor cab leads one to search for a radio station which will do two things:¬† 1) come in going both directions¬† 2) keep your mind active.

Given the mass depression caused by the $13 Target special, I vowed to do real research. Several hours spent on-line taught me more than I ever wanted to know about clock radios. The bottom line was that cheap clock radios use even cheaper analog tuners. If the station you want comes in strong no matter what radio then a cheap one will work for you. I was really shocked to learn that a cheap one would not work less than a mile from the transmitter. To much interference with other signals in the city, not to mention shielding in the high rise.

I really like waking up to NPR but I wasn’t going to spend $100 on a clock radio that took up the entire night stand just to do it. Then I found the Sangean RCR-5. I will admit part of me thought it crazy to spend more than $20 on a clock radio. The reviews with people complaining about the built in 10 minute battery backup with a non-replaceable battery were a bit off-putting. I even saw a review or two talking about how the plastic case vibrated playing certain music. Since there were only a few of these reviews I assume they left out the critical detail of just how loud they were trying to play the music.

This radio is awesome! Crystal clear signal separation. There is one really awesome feature I never saw mentioned in any review. After you set the radio station for the alarm you set the volume level. Most cheapie radios just blast on at the volume setting. Not this one. It starts off at minimum volume and gently climbs up to the setting value. Happens over a minute or something. Very gentle waking.

November 11, 2015

Whole Farm Wifi 2015

It has been quite a while since I wrote the original article about this topic. Much of the original equipment probably isn’t even on the market anymore. I had some good years out of that equipment, but have slowly been upgrading. Most of the computers I have purchased recently have had Gigabit bandwidth network ports and most of the portable devices have had speedier wireless N capabilities. At one point I found a sweet deal on a 16 port 10/100/1000 hub so I swapped out the 16 port 10/100 hub I was using in my office.

The non-technical crowd can view a hub as a powered network strip. You have all bought power strips which have 6 or more outlets on them. In concept a network hub (for home use) isn’t much different. You hook up its power then plug a cable in from your network/Internet router. After that you can plug as many network devices in as it has ports and they can all be on your network. The new hub gave network devices within my office the ability to communicate faster, but, bandwidth to the Internet and between buildings was still limited by the wireless capabilities of my router and range extender. It did have me thinking about finally installing a NAS and putting all of these external USB backup devices on a shelf.

About the only part of my original system which still is in service is the external antenna. You can still find those things for sale in many places. I am not certain my new router and range extender need the boost it gives, but, it was already there and the adapter cable I had allowed it to fit the new range extender.


What spurred this series of upgrades on was the failure of my existing range extender. It failed in the most annoying of ways. It said it was connected to my router but it refused to actually communicate with it. After spending most of a day trying to troubleshoot the problem I made a trip to Best Buy and picked up a Netgear AC1200 wifi Range Extender.

Configuring this range extender is simple. Plug a computer directly into it and boot the computer. Open a Web browser. If the setup page doesn’t load automatically type www.mywifiext.net into the broswer address bar and hit enter. Once you log in with the provided admin password you can easily connect to an existing router.

Note that in the original article I had to use a fixed channel number to make range extenders work well. It is the same for this range extender. You do not want your wireless router scanning various channels because that means your range extender only gets service part of the time. Well, it may not mean it, but given the horrible performance that appears to be what happens.

I continued on this way until I had more free time to devote to upgrading my entire network. Finally I had the time so I ordered some more toys. First I got the matching Netgear AC1200 wifi router. I got the version with antennas because I wanted the best possible range. When it arrived I noticed it had the added benefit of a USB port to attach a regular USB external drive and use it as shared network storage.


I also ordered a Western Digital 4TB MyCloud device.


Hooking up the router was a dream. Plug directly into it, boot the computer, open a browser. If the admin page doesn’t automatically load type www.routerlogin.net into the browser admin bar and hit enter. Respond to the login prompt with the provided admin password and you have a nice graphical configuration application.

I forgot my original advice about using fixed channels so I had maddeningly slow access from my office. After a bit of head scratching and looking at my older blog post I figured out what was wrong. I set the router to use channel 4 for the 2.4Ghz band and channel 149 for the 5Ghz band then reconfigured my range extender to use settings from the router. All was great.

Configuring MyCloud was even easier. I opted to plug it directly into my network because wired connections are always faster than wifi. Once again, you open a browser and type wdmycloud in the address bar. No need to actually download software like the instructions say.

There was a tiny bit of prep work getting the USB port to work on the wireless router. I had to freshly format my external DUO drive. I chose to put the DUO on there because it is a dual drive unit configured for RAID. Actually just mirroring. I have 2 identical 1TB drives in it. Anything written to it gets written to both drives so the drive “appears” to be only 1TB in size. The graphical admin pages for the router make configuration a snap.


A NAS device is completely different from the USB drive hung off the router. To start with you must create an account for each user of the NAS device. There is a Public repository on the NAS which one could use to share files, but I haven’t. The USB drive hung off the router is Public storage. Anyone able to access your network can access it.

If you are in a multi-building or whole farm situation you need to consider your storage options. Yes, either of these devices can be accessed from anywhere on the network. They can only be accessed “fast” from the local hardwired connections though. Communications between buildings is still limited by available wireless bandwidth. If your goal is to use these devices as communal backup devices then you need to think about that. My goal was just that. I wanted to cycle out the aging local USB drives and the hassle of having to go to each physical machine to delete old backups when the drives started getting full. Now, all of the machines I care to backup can automatically backup to the network devices. Whenever I think about it I can check available storage from whatever computer I happen to be using and free up any needed space.

On the Mint 17 KDE machine, setting up access required a bit of Web searching and thought. You have to figure out how to enable editing of the address bar (it is a clickable menu option, just not obvious) then you need to type addresses in. For the USB drive I forget if it was smb://readyshare/USB_Storage or \\readyshare\USB_Storage which worked. Both Ubuntu 15.10 and Windows 7 were able to easily find the devices on the network. I suspect the new release of Mint will have the same simple access given it will be based on the newer release of Ubuntu.


October 31, 2015

Propaganda Machines are in Full Swing

I probably should ignore a commentary piece published in the Kankakee Daily Journal. Given the on-line version has a markedly different picture of the person than the one found in the print edition I have to wonder about it. More interesting is the fact there is (currently) one comment in support of the commentary and it doesn’t sound like the person had graduating Junior High as part of their career path.

Yes, Illinois finances are in dire straights, but, it has nothing to do with the unions. The state’s finances were, some might even say criminally, mismanaged for decades. It was a case of politicians making promises they had no intention of keeping. State finances were roughly just as bad when Forever Useless Quinn was in office, but bills still got paid, eventually. Pension contributions were simply ignored.

I shouldn’t get offended at propaganda puff pieces, but this guy was so far off base he seems to be standing in an SIU (Southern Illinois University) parking lot believing he is about to steal second base at Wrigley Field.

What Governor Rauner seems not to realize is that people didn’t elect him. They voted out Forever Useless Quinn after he became useless enough even the Democratic Machine couldn’t put him back in office. There is a huge difference between winning an election and simply stepping into a void created by another. Yes, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn occasionally.

When wades through all of the propaganda to find the actual reporting it is difficult to imagine something similar to that scene in an episode of Babylon 5 where Ambassador Mollari is taken to the secret room/chamber of Emperor Cartagia. Look it up some time.

I just cannot help an image of him appearing in my mind, finding some empty room somewhere and ranting

My way, my way, my way, my way! Yes I’m going to let the poor people freeze and the inmates starve! Who do you think made those poor people? I did! When I off-shored their jobs!

It is a seen which plays out in my mind in full color every time there is a no-news report covering him speaking somewhere or when I see a propaganda piece like this one. I have seen other propaganda pieces claiming his role model was President Ronald Regan but I simply cannot believe it. I was in junior college during the Regan Years and he was nothing like this. There is someone this type of behavior reminds me of and his country is in the news a lot these past few years.

Oh well.

The reason bills aren’t getting paid can be found sitting in a chair in the governor’s office. He can have the propaganda machines spin all of the fantasies he wants, but, it is obvious to everyone. Even Forever Useless Quinn wasn’t bad enough to not get a budget deal done this far into the budget cycle.

One can only hope Illinois quickly repeats its storied history with politicians and does it soon.

September 29, 2015

It Takes 150

A few days ago I got fed up with all of the chatter about income inequality and dug up a blog post from years back. I cleaned it up a bit and posted it on the government petition Web site.


Then send you a link via email and encourage you to Tweet, spam, yadda yadda yadda the link. A few days later I went back to check on it and wondered why it had so few visitors. Then I hovered over one of the fine print links. That said it would take a minimum of 150 votes before it would be visible to a general site visitor. I swear I saw things with 20-40 votes listed when I posted it. Perhaps it is because the full text would not fit in the petition space so had to include off-site link?

At any rate, it needs 150 votes before the average schmoe visiting the site can see it.

Not really conducive to receiving good ideas. Someone could have a great idea, but not do Twitter, yadda yadda yadda so they would not get the 150 votes.

Is the purpose of the site to get great ideas to fix a broken country, or is the purpose of the site to find out what issue “might” have enough votes to get you re-elected?


September 23, 2015

The Annuity Scam

I poke around on financial sites from time to time. Yes, I see the late night commercials as well, when I’m awake late at night. No matter how many legal beagles and politicians swear up and down they are legit, the long history of annuities which took peoples money then disappeared to countries without extradition treaties (both real and imagined) will not be forgotten by the scammed or those they can tell in a 24/7 connected universe.

Someone once said the editors at Yahoo Finance couldn’t find a lit candle in a darkened room and after reading this article I firmly believe it.

Why in God’s green earth would anyone throw $20,000 into a murky barely understood annuity hoping to get just shy of $900/month some 20 years from now? The reason annuity sales have stalled is that they SUCK! They have finally proven P.T. Barnum wrong by running out of suckers. The example from the article says you buy at 65 an annuity which won’t start paying you just shy of $900/month until you hit 85. Odds are, it is non-transferable so when you reach life’s great checkout counter just a couple of years later, guess who keeps all that money?

There are many legitimate sites out there which report the dividend history of ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) and stocks. Personally I prefer the ETFs since they are a basket or group of stocks spread across many companies, usually within an industry. This protects you from a Volkswagen diesel emissions bomb or a Jared Fogle sex with minors court case. One company may vaporize overnight, but, generally, the ETF doesn’t sink or much notice. If an entire industry tanks, like say oil drilling, and you hold an ETF focused on oil drilling industry, well, you will take a bit of a hit. As long as you realize industries have cycles and don’t panic things will be well.

My point is you can take that $20,000 and spread it across half a dozen monthly and quarterly dividend paying ETFs. Each month you take the money which lands in your brokerage account and re-invest in the same or other ETFs. Since the article in question stupidly uses a 20 year time frame, do the math. It shouldn’t take long before you calculate how dividend paying ETFs snowball down the mountain past murky and un-trusted annuities.

That’s the reason nobody buys annuities today.