Universal Remote Control URC-A6

Like many, I was plagued with having too many remote controls in my living room. Some friends had suggested the Logitech Harmony line. I ended up getting a Harmony 300i. It currently lives in the bedroom as it has some shortfalls that I could not tolerate on the main TV. My main issue though was Logitech’s programming that must be done with their software that connects with your email address. Its not a huge deal, but it wasn’t all that friendly to me.

Research led me to “URC” as being fully programmable. I ended up with the URC-6 for under $20 from Amazon. I picked it based on price and the fact that it has a “-” button. I need the “-” for watching OTA TV with the digital tuner in my TV.

My real need for the universal remote was my Sony SA-VA15 audio system that I don’t have a remote for. More on this later.

I really should have listened more to the Amazon reviews, and read the manual in full before even putting the batteries in. That said, I found myself best off manually programming my TV and Blu Ray player remotes button by button. The codes for my devices did not have enough buttons set to be fully useful. It was painless and took less than 10 minutes each.

Now that Sony SA-VA15… I got it from my brother in law a few years ago from his storage unit. It was missing cables and the remote. I was able to cobble together cables, but had to adjust settings by getting off the couch. First world problems… I used the URC-A6’s manual “guess” method for this. Basically getting into program mode and scrolling up until I found one that turned the thing on/off and adjusted the volume. I haven’t found out how to switch inputs yet, but I’m happy.

I would highly recommend the URC-A6.


I got this joke in an email today. I bet you laugh at this one!

Fred came home drunk one night, slid into bed beside his sleeping wife, and fell into a deep slumber.
He awoke before the Pearly Gates, where St. Peter said, ‘You died in your sleep, Fred.’

Fred was stunned. ‘I’m dead? No, I can’t be! I’ve got too much to live for. Send me back!’

St. Peter said, ‘I’m sorry, but there’s only one way you can go back, and that is as a chicken.’

Fred was devastated, but begged St. Peter to send him to a farm near his home. The next thing he knew, he was covered with feathers, clucking and pecking the ground.

A rooster strolled past. ‘So, you’re the new hen, huh? How’s your first day here?’

‘Not bad,’ replied Fred the hen, ‘but I have this strange feeling inside. Like I’m gonna explode!’

‘You’re ovulating,’ explained the rooster. ‘Don’t tell me you’ve never laid an egg before?’

‘Never,’ said Fred.

‘Well, just relax and let it happen,’ says the rooster. ‘It’s no big deal.’

He did, and a few uncomfortable seconds later, out popped an egg! He was overcome with emotion as he experienced motherhood. He soon laid another egg — his joy was overwhelming.

As he was about to lay his third egg, he felt a smack on the back of his head, and heard…..

“Fred, wake up! You shit the bed!”

Getting OLD just ain’t what they said it would be!

Taking the Bing Challenge

I saw a TV commercial about the Bing Challenge and decided to give it a try. I’m a big fan of google, but hey, why not just see what happens in the challenge?

So I went over to http://www.bingiton.com/ (Bing It On) and found out how it works. They have you run 5 searches and on each one they split the screen and show you bing and google results, unbranded. You pick the one you prefer (Works best). I did it a few times and found out I prefer Bing. So now, a co-worker and I are trying Bing for a week.

Being a user of Gmail, and having activated the mail search function of google, I’m already missing that feature. I’m also missing the personalized results from my “circles”.

The quality of the actual search results I am finding to be pretty interesting. Bing seems to excel when I am looking up something I don’t know much about, while Google excels when I am looking for something very specific.

I will report more next week about the challenge.


Cree LR6 LED can-light upgrade

I first saw the Cree LR6 shown on This Old House. Having some lighting issues, I was interested immediately. My issue was that the existing can lights just weren’t putting out enough light for me. Every room was dim. Additionally, the installation of CFL bulbs in those housings only made it worse as they have to warm up.

Google’s Privacy Policy Changes

There is a lot of talk going on currently about Google’s changes in their privacy agreement. I am like most people and just click the agree button and go on with my day. This one though I ended up reading just because there was so much talk about it in the media.

The jist of the agreement is that your account credentials now work with all google services and they all share the same personal data on you as well as their privacy policy. There are some exceptions due to regulations on financial data, but its only a couple of sites.

People are offended by google using this data to present you with ads targeted at you. I personally see this as being a good thing. If I am looking for something, I want to see what I am looking for. Google allegedly can also learn your tastes so searching for a shirt will send you to Nordstrom and not Old Navy (if you’re like me).

The way I see it, Google is using data collected on you to provide a better and more relevant experience.

Solved: XP sound drivers present, but no sound

The problem: Windows XP suddenly stops playing back sounds. Drivers are present, sound devices menus all appear correctly and the volume indicator might even be present.

I first tried just changing settings around to see if it had been an error caused by a human. No dice. I uninstalled the driver and software. In this case, SoundMAX. The driver available from Lenovo was from 2005, but has not been updated since. Installed, but still no dice.

Finally I started thinking about audio codecs and ran a search for “K-lite codecs” and found the cnet link. I chose a custom installation, that also included a registry check on the sound system. Sure enough, it worked!


Anyone that has seen my desk knows that I write a lot of notes to myself. Reminders to do everything. Since moving into the house, I have been trying to be better about this though.

The problem: on any given day, I use up to 6 different electronic devices. I might read something on the computer that I would want to read on my Droid later that day. No problem with evernote. Its free for basic service and you can even share your notes with others.

I most recently got to enjoy the screen shot tool. By pressing print screen, a tool pops up where you can get a shot of all or part of the page you are looking at. This is pretty helpful if you’re having a problem or want to document something on your screen accurately.

Free Microsoft Office (online)

Many friends and family have heard me talk about how wonderful the Google system is. The short of the google system is: sign up for Gmail and you have access to nearly every product offered by google. For me, it made sense because of the number of computers I use in different locations. It also means that I can get on any computer in the world and access my documents without having to install anything or find a license key. It works wonderfully for me and many of my friends. I have run into an issue though: sometimes with larger files sent to me, or with files that depend on macros or excel specific commands I end up needing to fire up excel.

Now I have a two part solution. Listen up Uncle Tom!

Microsoft introduced the Skydrive as part of their Live online service. If you already have a Hotmail or Live.com e-mail address, you are almost there. Skydrive gives users 25Gb of storage. You can use it for anything, and get to it from anywhere!

Here is where it gets really cool: when you login to your live.com account, you will see a new tab for “Office.” Word, Excel, Powerpoint and One Note are all there for free with 25Gb of space to store all of your files. If you use MS Office 2010, it will sync your files too and check for changes.