All posts for the month February, 2017

Browser view. I was able to fix the database’s misspelling in Track 3’s title with Mp3tag. (Click to enlarge)

I probably was drawn to listen to the original “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” soundtracks this week due to my last few posts subconsciously reminding me of that 1964 spy show’s gadgetry.

Some time back, I bought the three U.N.C.L.E. soundtrack packages (2 CDs each) from Film Score Monthly. They were compiled by Jon Burlingame, who also wrote the detailed booklets included in each set. The scores by Jerry Goldsmith, Morton Stevens, Walter Scharf, Lalo Schifrin, Gerald Fried, Robert Drasnin and Richard Shores still sound great.

I can hardly stand to put CDs into a player at this point, preferring to rip them once to my Plex server for anytime, anywhere use with Plex apps in Roku, my smartphone, or the Raspberry Pi/OSMC. My mental set has changed, as when TV came in and altered peoples’ relationship to radio.

Plex Chromecast’d from phone app to the big system.

It’s especially difficult to physically handle these sets, as 2-CD jewel boxes seem prone to breakage and droppage. Also, the fat little booklets (important for full enjoyment of the music) do not enjoy being extracted from or replaced in the cases.

I had previously ripped these CDs with Windows Media Player, but the result was a mess. WMP’s tagging of the .mp3 files was inconsistent, possibly due to the sets being limited editions. This made them poorly organized under Plex.

By now, I know about Plex naming conventions, and use a free tool, Mp3tag, to add/change the tags embedded in each .mp3. So I was ready to try again.

The first problem is with Plex seeing each CD of the pair as a separate album. To solve it:

  • Rip the first CD of the set. Then open up Mp3tag and display the folder containing the .mp3 files. Mp3tag shows you a tag called “discnumber”.
  • Select all the tracks, make their discnumber=1 and save.
  • Do the same with the ripped tracks from the second disc, making those tracks discnumber=2.
  • Then you can move all the .mp3s into a single folder, and Plex will see it as a single album with 2 CDs.

In addition, Plex needed a couple of tags to be fixed:

The “Album” and “Album Artist” tags are key.

I had to experiment with the “Album” tag. Windows Media Player had tagged it “The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Vol. 1 [Original Soundtrack Album] Disc 1” (and then Disc 2), which confused Plex, even after removing the “Disc 1/2″ part of the tag.

Ultimately, in Mp3tag, I changed all the tracks to Album=”The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Vol. 1″ and Album Artist=”Various Artists”. The latter is a catchall solution for compilation albums, and soundtrack albums not entirely composed of tracks from a single artist.

Windows Media Player had also filed the album folder under Music/Soundtrack. To correspond with my retagging, I moved all the tracks to a folder I named “The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Vol. 1″ (same as the Album tag) under the already-existing Music/Various Artists folder.

Mp3tag revealed that the music already was tagged Genre=”Soundtrack”, which is good enough for my purposes, so I deleted the now-empty Soundtracks folder.

I repeated the above for Volumes 2 and 3.

Using Mp3tag free software to fix tags for Vol.3. I dragged the key tags into view. (Click to enlarge)

The album art Plex selected for each album was a bit grainy. If you can find (or scan) a higher-resolution version, you can edit the album in Plex and add the new art under “Poster”. I also added a landscape-oriented Background image of the U.N.C.L.E. logo for each album.

(FYI, most CDs rip correctly with no alteration needed. These were exceptions.)

Not yet content, I wanted to keep all the album booklets together for use while listening.

I repurposed a UPS mailer, printing and gluing on an image found via Google.

(I always wondered why Napoleon Solo’s badge was #11, while Illya was #2. No mystery about Mr. Waverly being #1. If Solo ever complained, maybe Illya pointed out in mock solace that “11” in binary is 3 in decimal.)

Back in the dot-matrix printer era (the 1990s), I printed out an excellent online U.N.C.L.E. TV episode guide, written by Bill Koenig. At that time, I went so far as to bind it into a homemade U.N.C.L.E. folder. With the new packet,  I have a dossier.

(This guide is available at with additional articles about the show. I added a shortcut to my phone for even easier reference.)

Homemade episode guide and CD booklet folder

Heroes & Icons (Tulsa channel 41.4) has been playing “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” I have recorded all but 4 of the 105 episodes to hard drive with my Raspberry Pi/OSMC/Windows Media Center setup. The remaining 4 should be coming up within the next month.

My next project may be to remove the commercials and convert them to .mp4 format with MCEBuddy.

Previous U.N.C.L.E. research from Tulsa TV Memories:

The T-Town Affair

U.N.C.L.E., SAGE, SABRE, Strangelove & Tulsa: Connections

And, U.N.C.L.E. HQ in the TTM aStore

Amazon Dash Button, repurposed.

If you are an avid Public Radio Tulsa 89.5 listener like I am, you probably have had a “driveway moment”:

You just arrived back home with a riveting story in progress, but there is something urgent you need to be doing besides sitting and listening to the radio in your car.

So you dash indoors, turn on the radio, and try to continue listening while you do whatever is so all-fired important.

But wait, here’s the Public Radio Tulsa “Driveway Moment” Button!

From your driveway or garage, push the button on your key ring, and instantly start recording on your indoors Windows PC. Listen to the rest of the story when you have time.

Yes, in only one fast, easy stroke of your index finger!

Public Radio Tulsa “Driveway Moment” Button in action. Bottom right: the “listener” process running in the System Tray, waiting for the button push. Bottom left: the command prompt window  created by the listener process. Top left: the VLC recorder window created by the command prompt window. Top right: icon of the VLC recording. (Click to enlarge)

This is a short how-to, since the hard work is in two previous posts.

  1. Do the hack described in detail in this post: Amazon Dash Button Hack: X10 wireless doorbell.
  2. Instead of creating the doorbell.bat file, create a KWGSrecord.bat file as described in this post: DIY online radio recorder (KWGS update). Change the number of seconds in that file from 10800 (3 hours) to 1800 (1/2 hour), or whatever length of time you want.
  3. Alter the text in DashButton.bat from the first post so it executes KWGSrecord.bat instead of doorbell.bat.

There, wasn’t that easy?

Maybe not.

But it can be done, because I just tested it from both our garage and driveway.

You could also keep the button near where you listen to your home radio for spur-of-the-moment KWGS recording.

Yet another example of repurposing the Amazon Dash Button.

(By the way, the button’s product label can be peeled off, and replaced with a custom label if you wish. Or you might say it means a “Bounty” of good radio.)

Now it’s a KWGS radio with recorder!

Here is a fun and cheap home automation trick I did last week.

Our house came with a wireless doorbell, which sadly has gone to that Great Electronics Recycling Depot in the sky. What to do?

I recalled reading somewhere that the Amazon Dash button is capable of being repurposed via a hack. (By the way, the first button is basically free).

“Amazon Dash Button is a Wi-Fi connected device that reorders your favorite product with the press of a button. Each Dash Button is paired with a product of your choice, which is selected during the set-up process. When you’re running low, simply press Dash Button—ensuring you never run out of your essentials again.”

The hack involves starting up a .bat (batch) file that “watches” for your button push, then runs any other .bat or .exe file on your PC that you have selected, rather than ordering an Amazon product.

Since I was able to create a batch file that activates our X10 chime module, we now have a free wireless doorbell!

(At least we will, once I get a more up-to-date router that can reserve IP addresses by hardware address… Done, 12/2017.)

(Click above photos to enlarge. Label by Brother P-touch Label Maker.)

The Dash button hack:

The Readme file for the Amazon Dash Button Hack at GitHub has the full procedure and free software for the hack.

My supplemental notes:

Download the latest version of the software, which is in .zip format. Unzip it into a folder on your PC (I put it into C:\DashButton).

Then connect a new, unpaired Amazon Dash Button to your home wifi network. A smartphone Amazon app is needed to do this. First make sure to update the Amazon app to the most recent version. Subprocedure at Instructables; do Steps 1 and 2 only.

Next, I found that “pushing the button you wish to pair repeatedly” per the Readme file’s Normal Usage Instructions didn’t work that well for me.

You can skip directly to the “If you already know the IP of your button” section for testing if you do the following:

  • Open up a browser on a PC directly connected to your wireless router and type in “” (or whatever the correct IP address is for your particular router’s make and model) to access the router’s management GUI.
  • You will be asked to enter both a username and password. Typically, they are both “admin” if you haven’t changed it previously. Check your manual.
  • Find the “DHCP Clients Table” (on my Linksys router, it’s under Status/Local Network). Look at it or take a screenshot.
  • Push your Dash Button, then refresh the DHCP table and compare. You should see a new “Generic Amazon” device along with its IP address and its MAC address.
  • Copy down the IP address (e.g., and the associated hardware (MAC) address (e.g., AB:78:BF:8C:9D:19).

OR (easier):

  • Download the free Fing app to your smartphone. When you hit the app’s refresh button, it shows a list of all your locally-connected network devices.
  • Push your Dash Button, then immediately refresh Fing. You should see listed a new “Generic Amazon” device with its IP address and its MAC address.
  • Copy them down.
  • Try again if at first you don’t succeed.

It’s fine to use the IP address from the above for testing in the “If you already know the IP of your button” section of the Readme page, but it needs to not change over time. To accomplish this, go into your router’s GUI as mentioned above, and reserve an IP address for your button. This is where you use the button’s MAC address you noted above. Look through your router’s GUI menu to find where to reserve the IP address by MAC address.

My permanent batch file to execute the hack is named “DashButton.bat”. This is needed if you want the hack to run every time you reboot. Here is the text contained in it:

start /min C:\DashButton\AmazonButton_v4.0.exe C:\Users\User\Desktop\doorbell.bat “Comment: place this file in Startup.”

  • Leave out the “start /min” text for testing. (Minimizes the command prompt window.)
  • Replace “” with your button’s IP address, and the full path of the .bat file with the location of your own  .bat file.
  • Change the comment to something meaningful to you, or just delete it.
  • Be sure the quote marks are the straight up and down kind (“dumb”) not the curly type (“smart”).

(I show below how to create the doorbell.bat. You can use any other executable file on your PC for testing, or just to do a different action at a push of the button.)

  • Double-click DashButton.bat to activate the hack.
  • Push your Dash button.
  • If the doorbell batch file (or the file you selected) is executed, then your DashButton.bat is working.
  • Put a copy of it into your PC’s Startup folder. That way, when Windows is rebooted, the it will be executed during Startup.

The batch file to use with the Dash button hack:

You can use any batch or .exe file you have, but I wanted to activate our X10 Chime module.

I mentioned in the previous post that we already have an X10 home automation system, including a CM15A USB Transceiver Module plugged into our desktop Windows PC.

With the CM15A and free AHSDK software in place, any of our X10 devices (including our Chime module) can be activated over our local network.

My doorbell.bat file has this text in it:

start /d “C:\Program Files (x86)\AHSDK\bin” ahcmd.exe sendplc A9 on

  • The folder with my ahcmd.exe executable file is C:\Program Files (x86)\AHSDK\bin. Our Chime module is at X10 address A9 (house code A, unit code 9).
  • Adjust your batch file text to match the location of your ahcmd.exe and the module you want to activate.
  • Again, be sure the quote marks are “dumb”, not “smart”.

So a new wireless doorbell at zero additional cost.

Intended use of an Amazon Dash Button

Amazon Echo Dot, aka Alexa, aka "Computer" in our theater room.

Amazon Echo Dot, aka Alexa, aka “Computer”, responding to my voice command in our theater room.

Among its many talents and skills, the Amazon Echo Dot device allows you to voice-control a number of smart home systems, notably, Philips Hue.

But we already have X10 home automation devices, which are not supported by the Echo. (See the X10 section of the TTM aStore.)

There is a way to get Alexa (Amazon’s virtual personal assistant, who inhabits the Echo Dot) to accept X10 voice commands to turn lights, fans, and coffee makers on and off. I’ve done it.

See the 35-second video at bottom of page; read more below.

HA-Bridge is free software that emulates the Philips Hue light system.

When HA-Bridge is installed on a computer, it tricks Alexa into thinking she is “seeing” and controlling a Philips Hue light that is actually a different brand of device, such as X10.

The computer also needs a CM15A USB Transceiver Module (or the like) to communicate with X10 devices. (I already had a CM15A plugged into a Windows 10 PC so we could use the X10 Commander app on our smartphones.)

I could have installed HA-Bridge on one of my Linux-based Raspberry Pi computers (see Corey’s Write for a procedure), but I preferred not to disturb the existing arrangement on our Win 10 computer.

Luck was with me. Just last month, Tuicemen wrote a Windows-based program, Alex10, that uses HA-Bridge (included) to talk with Alexa. It is also more user-friendly than HA-Bridge. So Alex10 was the way to go. (Tuicemen deserves a PayPal tip for his good work if you use it.)

I won’t go into further technical detail about how to do it, but here are the resources I used:

Tuicemen’s Alex10 page

Tuicemen’s Alex10 Forum

Tuicemen’s Alex10 thread on the X10 CommunityForums

Yesterday was our first sci-fi Saturday with voice-controlled lights.

When I say “Computer: turn on Movie Time”, our assorted decorative and house lights come on. (I selected the name “Movie Time” and the lights to be activated in the Alexa Android app.)

Then, when I say “Computer: turn off theater lights,” the house lights go down, and the show can begin.

When I say “Computer: make it so” in my best Jean-Luc Picard voice, Alexa (renamed “Computer” last week) is pre-programmed to respond “Aye, aye, Captain.”

See it in action in our house: