just one more geek in a sea of austin techies

November 29, 2016

Monoprice mini DJ mixer revealed #AudioGeek represents one of those vendors that "in-the-know" people seem to gravitate to.  Much like PC geeks seem to have on speed dial, wire and cable geeks (yes, that's a thing) know all about Monoprice's basic-but-good offerings.

Over the last several years Monoprice has diversified by slowly expanding beyond wire and cables.  Now you can order up a variety of wire-interconnected gear such as Monoprice-branded speakers, microphones, guitars (!) and audio mixers.

On the point of mixers, I recently happened upon the actual brand behind Monoprice's current "baby" DJ mixer model #614305.  Notably, Monoprice only charges 2/3 the normal retail price...

September 24, 2016

TIP: Anti-anti-AdBlock #WebGeek

If, like me, you use an "ad blocker" in your web browser to improve your web experience then you've likely run across so-called anti-ad blocker measures on sites like Forbes, Wired, and other big-name news websites.  Over the past year many of these sites instituted measures that prevent you from viewing content unless you turn off your ad blocker.

Tip if you use AdBlock
Click the AdBlock icon that appears near the top of your web browser and select the "Don't run on this page" option from the pop-up menu.  Done!  This step will deactivate many site's "anti-ad block" content blockers on all of a site's pages, not just the single page you allowed ads on.

(Don't have AdBlock?  Check it out here: )

Allowing ads only on the initial page can help skirt ad walls.
Here we see the AdBlock plugin blocked 16 ads on the home page of "".

Why This Works (for now)
Many of the current anti-ad blocker solutions interpret this action as you having deactivated ad block for the entire site and so will allow you to browse all pages without issue.  On a site like you won't even have to see ads on the page you "allowed ads" on since Forbes' solution uses an intermediary page to shield content.  In other words, all you'll have done is to "allow ads" on the intermediary page which Forbes will no longer show you since the site believes you've deactivated your ad blocker for the entire site.

September 1, 2016

Give your kid a phone...cheaply! #PhoneGeek

My kids are growing up and getting into more and more activities.  A cell phone has become an item my wife and I *need* the kids to have.  Not for social use, mind you, but as a tool for necessary family communication.  And for taking photos.  And maybe a few games.

Notorious penny-pincher that I am, I've settled on a rather excellent combination of phone capabilities and value.  Our first "kid phone" includes:

  • Android 6.0; 2GB RAM; 48GB storage; HD display (1280x720)
  • Location service + remote lock/wipe so I can pinpoint phone and secure it if needed
  • Limited monthly talk (200 minutes), texts (500) and data (500MB) to force responsible phone use
  • Ability to increase/decrease monthly limits as needed
The kicker?  I paid a one-time price of $71 with no monthly cellular service charges (free cellular service!)  That's $71 and done.  I can harp at my kids for hours on the need to be "phone-responsible" but the truth is that I'm only out $71 if the phone is ever lost/broken/stolen.

Read on to see what I've put together...

August 29, 2016

Republic Wireless now less of a value #PhoneGeek

Republic Wireless:
Now with more phones, less savings
Over the past year I geeked out a bit over alternative cellular services.  Since the late 1990's I've had cellular service with some of the largest US providers including Sprint, Verizon and AT&T.  This past year I moved my family from a shared AT&T plan to three alternative cellular services:  Google Fi, FreedomPop and Republic Wireless.  Each service has its pros and cons but, in the past few months, Republic Wireless has enacted some radical changes that redefines my own value assessment for that service.  If you were considering a switch to Republic Wireless, this post is for you...

August 22, 2016

Get Android 7 (Nougat) immediately with Nexus device #AndroidGeek

Android 7.0 is available immediately
for Nexus owners via beta signup.
Got a Nexus device?  If so, you can get Android 7.0 (Nougat) immediately without waiting for the over-the-air (OTA) roll out by opting your device "in" to the Android beta program.  As of today (8/22/2016) the opt-in option results in a wait time of less than 1 minute for the download notification to appear on your device.

Go to the beta opt-in page to see if your device qualifies.  If so, "opt in" to get an alert that the new Android version is ready for download.  The 7.0 release is 1,171.5 MB so make sure you're not already pressed for download and installation space.

Beta opt-in:

One big caveat
If you later decide to "opt-out" while running a "beta" copy of Android your device could be wiped in the reversion process so choose wisely...

Android 7.0
Not familiar with what 7.0 is adding?  The big new feature is multitasking -- two apps at once side-by-side -- which has already been available in limited fashion in certain enhanced (non-stock) iterations of Android.  There are also security enhancements and optimizations aimed at longer battery life.

See the Android 7.0 feature page here:

Reviews for 7.0 have been relatively positive so far.  I'm now updating my Nexus 5X and will post details of any major issues I encounter.

June 2, 2016

Fix Google Play app's music preview #AndroidGeek

Google Play App can't preview songs
following software update.
A recent round of Google Android software updates have broken the music preview capability of the Google Play Store app.  This is a bit of bad news as I like to peruse unfamiliar (to me) free and $0.99 albums routinely offered through the Play store.

A number of "try this fix" suggestions have been tossed around the net including clearing Play Store app cache, resetting the app, dropping the registered account and then adding it back, etc.  These are, at best, only temporary fixes for the music preview problem.

The REAL fix is to update your Google Play Store app to a more recent version.  The most recent version(s) must be manually downloaded and installed.  I have several Nexus devices (you know -- the line of devices that always get Android updates first?) and they have *not* gotten over-the-air (OTA) updates to the latest Play Store app version, yet.

Thankfully it's easy to get your hands on a fixed version from APKMirror, a trusted host of verified (and legal) APK files.  Note that the following link is to an official Google release, not some app variant someone cooked up at home.

Here's Play Store version 6.7.13 released on 6/1/2016:

To install this you'll need to go into Android system settings and temporarily allow installation of APK files from unknown sources.  I've now tested this update on two different Android devices and have verified it corrects the music preview issue.

April 9, 2016

Home Depot Lorem Ipsum #WebGeek

Although it is probably a minor embarrassment for someone, I admittedly take some small comfort in the occasional oversights of web teams for major corporations.  I don't enjoy seeing serious security issues but minor content mistakes remind me that even the big boys are prone to basic process-control gaffes...

Just put this page over there by the discounted "Oops paint"...

March 7, 2016

eero Day Two-Point-Five #NetworkGeek

As a new eero WiFi mesh network owner I decided to blog my WiFi performance results as I attached each of the three new eero units -- one unit and blog post per day.

Days one and two went well.  Before I could settle in with my third and final eero unit, however, plans went slightly awry...

March 4, 2016

eero Day Two #NetworkGeek

This week I received my new eero mesh network. As I proceed to connect each mesh network node I'm measuring WiFi performance at multiple locations in my house and sharing the experience for the benefit of other potential mesh network adopters.  Today I connected the second of my three eero units.

If you missed my "eero Day One" post click here to open it in a new window.  Read the Day One post then continue below (I'll wait).

My measured WiFi performance jumped dramatically with just a single eero unit compared to my old D-Link 1000 Media Router.  As you would expect, expanding that single eero into a two-node mesh helped even more...

March 3, 2016

eero Day One #NetworkGeek

I anticipate the introduction of new gadgets. I keep an eye on tech news and peruse buzz-generating Kickstarter and GoFundMe campaigns.  I even occasionally bite on investing in something still in the production stages.

In February, 2015, I bought into eero.  eero's product creates a consumer-level mesh WiFi network.  Instead of one wireless router you have multiple wireless access points working together.  This may not sound new and it isn't -- "mesh" has been in the enterprise for many years.  The home consumer, however, has largely been relegated to using wireless repeaters or independent access points (different SSIDs) to expand home WiFi coverage. Mesh is seamless WiFi (one SSID) without the performance loss of repeaters.

In mid-February, 2016, eero began shipping the first units to its early-adopter customers (me).  Because the eero system is not exactly cheap at $200 per unit or $500 for a bundle of three units, I'm documenting my eero experience for the benefit of anyone contemplating an eero mesh network.

Day One:  Setting up eero #1 of 3 (and the difference it made)...

February 28, 2016

Dell Inspiron 3050 SATA cable #HTPCGeek

By far the most popular ATXGeek post of the past year has been "Dell Inspiron 3050 Micro Teardown" which kicked off an active comments-based dialog concerning upgrade and modification options for Dell's nicely-priced, micro-sized system.  The comments for that post now exceed 350 entries so it's time I waded through all the great contributions to summarize some things we've learned in the 9 months following the 3050's launch.

I won't attempt to include all new info in one post.  Instead, I'll begin with the top item of conversation these past 9 months: that elusive SATA cable.

What new thing do we know?  We know that Dell *does* offer a SATA cable that works for the 3050 and we now have photos and the Dell part number for that very special cable...

February 10, 2016

HP unveils ink tank DeskJets #PrintGeek

Refilling one of HP's new
consumer-level ink tank printers.
I've long toyed with the idea of converting an inkjet printer from ink cartridges to an aftermarket ink tank system.  Ink tank systems replace ink cartridges with external ink tanks allowing you to print thousands of sheets at a time. When ink runs low you refill the tanks from cost-effective ink bottles instead of replacing cartridges (expensive!) or refilling cartridges using a needle-based system.

Ink tank conversion kits are also relatively inexpensive -- typically running $50 to $100 -- and pre-converted printers are available for a small premium.

I may have no further need to consider ink tank conversion kits.  HP just released information on two upcoming consumer-level ink tank-based printers.  The news has not been officially announced in the US just yet (you read it here first!) but the printers are now listed on some HP websites.  The two initial DeskJet ink tank models are the GT 5810 and GT 5820.  Based on early overseas reports, I think we can expect these two models to sell in the US between $150 to $200 and individual ink refill bottles to sell between $5 to $10 per bottle (5,000 to 8,000 sheet yield per bottle).  These new printer models' apparent ink tank capacities do not measure up to some aftermarket conversion kits but it's a promising start from HP.

DeskJet GT 5810:

DeskJet GT 5820:

January 6, 2016

Google Fi vs. Republic Wireless #PhoneGeek

Google Fi versus Republic Wireless
I've blogged before on Republic Wireless and also on Google Fi.  In the interest of saving money -- a LOT of money -- I'd examined both with the intent to move our family to one of these two services.  In the past few months we finally made the jump to.... both! (And also to FreedomPop, but I'll save that for another post.)

We now have one phone on Republic Wireless and another on Google Fi.   I love a head-to-head comparison -- what better way to do that than to actually be a customer of both services at the same time?

As for the money savings? I have our initial months' phone bills in and can say with certainty that we have reduced our overall cell phone bill by more than 70%... but which new service cut it more?  Read on....