Thoughts From My Life

Advice from someone who does not know everything.

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Creating a Sun Shield for Garage Door Sensor

I have had issues with my garage door not wanting to close depending on the time of day. I have a a north facing garage door and depending on the time of year and time of day, the sun can shine on the door sensors and interfere with them.

The door sensors are the little sensors that are attached near the bottom of the door rails. They are a pair and point at each other. If anything is between the sensors, then it will block the garage door from closing. On my opener, the door won’t even try to close or if it was closing and something got between the sensors, it would go back up. The light on the garage door unit flashes three time until the issue is resolved.

One of my sensors.
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Vehicle Bill of Sale

A few years back I was purchasing a vehicle for my wife. It was a good exercise in the process of buying a used car through a private sale. There a a number of issue to take care of and I developed my own little process. You can read about it in my article Negotiating a Private Sale on a Car.This article provides an example of a Bill of Sale or what I call a Purchase Agreement. You should always, always, always have one of these. It defines the actual agreement that you have come to with the seller. You will need it to insure and register your vehicle.Feel free to use this template. I am sick of not being able to find a decent one for free. I have underlined and italicized the sections you will want to fill in yourself. You can copy and paste it into a text editor or try downloading a template:

I would keep the overall sections there, but you can add criteria to each one as you see fit. There might be more or less conditions as well.

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Negotiating A Private Sale on a Car

I have learned a lot about negotiating and due diligence on a car when buying privately. This is from my own experiences and talking to other people that have purchased used vehicles and what they feel is important. If you don’t think you need to do any of these items, then feel free not to.I just whipped this article up from my recent experiences and I will continue to add to it over the next few weeks.

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Stupid to the Last Drop by William Marsden

I just finished reading Stupid to the Last Drop: How Alberta Is Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada (And Doesn’t Seem to Care). It is a very interesting look at the oil industry in Alberta and I would recommend it for anyone who lives in Canada or is from here to read.

It covers a lot of history as to how the industry developed and is also very critical of the Alberta government and industry in general in terms of the environmental policy (or lack thereof).

Be warned: it is very critical and does not portray a very positive image of the province in general. Regardless of your opinion though, it is a worthwhile read with a lot of interesting points to consider and debate.

Below is a paid link to purchase the book.

Roland FP-4 Digital Piano

I have purchased my first digital piano recently. The Roland FP-4 is an excellent keyboard. Full set of 88 weighted keys, in a compact body, that Apple iPod white color, and built in speakers is exactly what I wanted.

In particular, the weighted feel (or the action) is quite nice on the Roland and more of what I wanted, even though it is in a higher price range than a number of other keyboards.

One thing I have to say is that any of the advanced features on the piano do not have an intuitive interface to use them (recording and playback, etc).

The music rest is neat on the white Roland as well. It is a clear fibreglass back with white metal base for the music to sit on.

Roland FP-4

PowerBlock Adjustable Dumbbells

I recently purchased a set of PowerBlock adjustable dumbbells. Probably one of the smartest fitness purchases I have done. I own the PowerBlock Classic 45. These dumbbells can adjust from 5 to 45 pounds in 5 pound increments. This is all I need at this point, but they do have other sets that are capable of being upgraded to go as high as 130 pounds if you are looking for more weight.There are newer versions that have more room inside the handles as well. The Sport 5.0 and Sport 9.0 series are the latest generation that have a little more room between the handles and actually go up to 50 pounds.I was motivated to buy them because I am doing the P90X workout program. For a guy doing the classic version of the program and trying to build a little muscle, you really need to be lifting dumbbells to get enough strength training resistance. The PowerBlocks were a perfect fit for my house because I really don’t have the room at my house to store it, nor do I want to pay to have a rack of dumbbells with the same range.If you are looking for some dumbbells and are tight for money/room, then these dumbbells are a good option. I simply bought my used in the city I live in, but you can find them wherever. There are a few different brands too. The other popular one are the Selecttech Nautilus ones that Bowflex is affiliated with.

Below is a paid link to purchase them.

S.K. Parks Consulting – Manuscript Editing, Research Consulting, Seminars, Tutoring

My brother-in-law has recently returned from living in France for the past decade. He earned his PhD in Canada before moving abroad and working in Labs in Nice, France and Monaco. He has over 15 years of experience in scientific research, publishing & peer-review for internationally recognized journals and teaching in the Medical and Biological Sciences.

Now living in Victoria, Canada, he is has launched his own website, S.K. Parks Consulting. He provides a variety of services such as:

  • Manuscript Editing & Evaluation
  • Research Consulting
  • Guest Seminars
  • Tutoring
  • Translating Services (French & English)

Check out his site if you are interested.

Unable to Download Blocked Gmail Attachment

I ran into an issue recently where I was trying to retrieve an attachment in an email and it was blocked. Gmail blocks the download of attachments it feels are a risk. Files with certain file extensions (like .exe), zip files that contain them, etc. The full listing and help from Google is here: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/6590?hl=en .

The message you will see is:


Anti-virus warning 
– 1 attachment contains a virus or blocked file. Downloading this attachment is disabled.

I was searching for solutions and a lot of them involve asking the sender to send a different way or use a Google Drive folder or equivalent. In my case that would not work as the file was in an email I sent myself.

Eventually I found this article, which describes how to download the original email, open it in Windows Mail, and download the attachment from there. Very simple, free, and convenient to do. I imagine opening the email in a Mac email client would work as well.

XBox Kodi Unable to Open NFS Folder

Problem

I am running Kodi Alpha 3 on my XBox One and on my Surface.  Everything works fine on my Surface, but my XBox One in particular has this issue.

My media is stored a QNAP network attached storage on my local network. 

  • I try to add media by adding a file source. 
  • Add Videos -> Add Video Source -> Browse -> Network File System (NFS)
  • It automatically shows the IP of my NAS. 
  • I select the NAS IP name and it navigates to show me the root list of shared folders (Multimedia, Downloads, Public, etc).  
  • At this point I cannot descend any further into any of the folder names except for Public.  The other ones if I click on them just make an audible UI noise, but nothing happens.
  • I have checked the settings on the Multimedia folder, but they appear to be readonly for guest/everyone access.

On my Windows 10 Surface, the same procedure lets me descend into the Multimedia share and select a folder to index or view a file from.  It is like my XBoxOne is restricted or unable to go any further, but no error message is displayed.

Solution

I first posted about this on the Kodi forums in the article Xbox Kodi Unable to Open NFS Folder.

So my Kodi app on my Surface was working, because from my Surface in Windows Explorer I had logged into the NAS folders using a login/password.  The XBox One Kodi I had not done that (and not sure if you can).  I had to log into my QNAP and comb through the settings.  I had set up access as read only in one spot, but I needed to change a pick list to say “NFS host access” and then set “Access right” enabled.  Once I applied that setting, then I could descend into the folder from Kodi on the XBox One.   Was not able to upload my screenshot here, but here are step by step instructions for my NAS admin page.

1. Connect to your QNAP NAS admin page.
2. Open Control Panel
3. Select Privilege -> Shared Folders. 
4. You will now see a list of folders.
5. In the Actions column, hover over the icon that gives the tooltip that says “Edit Shared Folder Permission” and click it.
6. A window will appear that says “Edit Shared Folder Permission”. 
7. I did have “Guest Access Right” pick list set to “Read Only” here.
8. Change the “Select permission type” pick list to be “NFS host access”.
9. Enable the checkbox for “Access right”.
10. Click Apply.

You should be good to go now.  If you found you needed more steps, please post back here.  But this worked for me. 

I’m running the QNAP TS-231.  Firmware version: 4.3.4.0675 Build 20180810

Public Mobile – Ultra Discount Cellular Network in Canada

I recently signed a family member up for a Public Mobile account. I have to say I am quite impressed at what you can get with the ultra-discount mobile providers if you don’t have a lot of needs.

Essentially, the plan we selected is as follows:

  • $23/month (it is actually $25/month, but you automatically get a $2 discount if you automatically pay with a credit card)
  • 1GB of data (500MB is standard and you receive another 500MB for autopaying)
  • Unlimited calling Canada wide
  • Unlimited text and picture messaging
  • Voicemail and call display

What Are the Cons?

They are ultra discount for a reason, so there are a few things you should know about.

  1. Minimal Customer Service: There is a non-existent customer service. Not even a phone number to call. Information is available online and they utilize a forum to ask questions and other users answer them.
  2. 3G Data Speeds: The data is at 3G speeds and not LTE or 4G.
  3. Priority on a Tower: I’m not 100% on this, but it was described to me that if a specific cellular tower had a lot of customers trying to use it, then Telus/Bell/Koodo/Virgin customers would be prioritized higher than you would be. I’m guessing at a sporting event or festival this may be an issue. I haven’t heard of anyone experiencing this though.
  4. Add on data is expensive. For some reason just adding a GB of LTE data is $30. Seems pricy if you needed it. If you needed more data within a billing cycle, you can just switch plans as well and get pro-rated at the new plan data size.

What are the Pros?

  1. Great Coverage. Public Mobile is a division of Telus. So it is on the Telus/Bell network. So the coverage is great and works for rural users that would normally be with Telus/Bell.
  2. Cheap, cheap, cheap. Hard to beat the plans. They start as low as $10/month and go up to $60 (the latter actually includes 2GB of U.S. roaming data).
  3. Referral Discounts. If you refer other customers to sign up (and they use your referral code), you receive $1/month discount per customer while they stay on Public Mobile.
  4. Helping Discounts. If you help out by answering questions in the forums, you can earn up to $20 per billing period against your bill.

Am I Limited to 3G Towers?

No. From what I can see, you are only throttled to 3G speeds and you will still connect to any of their towers.

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