Lightning-pocalypse Saturday occurred June 14, 2015.

More recently, I had several devices die on me (they say it always happens in threes):

Actually, not so much an apocalypse as annoyance and inconvenience.


The old underpowered eMachine PC had been unplugged for a couple of weeks (to avoid exposure to a lightning storm), but when I plugged it back in, the hard drive was dead.

Since acquiring a more powerful desktop PC, I have had little need for the old PC beyond redundancy.

It didn’t have an HDMI output, so I used an Ethernet-connected Raspberry Pi 3 as a front end to get its content to the big screen.

All the recordings I made with it were on an external hard drive. I simply plugged it into the desktop and told its WMC software about the addition. All those recordings are now available via Emby.

Emby is a free application I use in tandem with WMC, a USB TV tuner, antenna, and free ServerWMC software.

I can stream live or recorded TV programs and local TV/movie files to smartphone or tablet via Emby app, or to Roku via its Emby channel (see previous post Watch live local TV anywhere via Emby app).

The desktop PC is an i5 quad-core, powerful enough for Emby to transcode over-the-air recordings and DVD rips on the fly.

Later note: My friend Tim took a closer look and found that one of the two SATA controllers was bad, rather than the hard drive. He swapped the controllers, so now the DVD drive is impaired, but can be fixed with a $20-30 card. The Windows 10 PC with Media Center is working again! Now all I have to do is figure out what I want to do with it.


I ran a special app on the rooted Google tablet to try to get rid of a recurring “Optimizing apps” annoyance, but it rendered the device unbootable. This is fixable, but frankly it has been kind of a pain to work around the limitations of this “lightly provisioned” device.

However, I like the 7″ tablet form factor for home theater table-side use.


Saddest was the Note II phone/tablet. It did everything I needed it to do, but battery life was so poor even with a new battery that I had gotten in the habit of swapping it out more than once a day. Unfortunately, the cover was loose from all this activity, and when I dropped the phone on the carpet, the cover flew off, the battery fell out and the device got stuck in boot. Luckily all my media were on a microSD card.

This is probably fixable, too, but I decided to get a refurbished Samsung Galaxy Tab A 7″ tablet to replace it.

Fortunately, the tablet’s battery life is much better, and I now recharge rather than swap to avoid a replay of the Note II debacle. I removed the Note II’s micro SD card and plugged it into the new tablet to access old photos, videos, and music.

The tablet now functions as a go-anywhere 7″ full feature portable TV, and theater room control center, besides the regular uses.

It IS possible to recover from shooting yourself in both feet.


Tablet screen for monitoring and control of home theater devices.

Streaming a program recorded by the dead PC via Emby to the refurbished 7″ tablet.

“Slow TV” on Pluto.TV. Good viewing while waiting for my system to achieve sentience.

I found a free internet TV service which is like an alternate cable/satellite TV universe.

It’s called Pluto.TV, available as a Roku channel, as a Chromecast-able Android app, as well as on AppleTV, PlayStation and others. You get lots of channel and program listings on a grid, just like cable.

TechHive described Pluto TV as “the best cord-cutting app you’re not using“.

For the cord-cutter, Pluto.TV gives you an amazing cable channel-surfing experience at no cost.

There are some channels you will recognize (CNBC, CBSN) and many you may or may not (The Feed, RiffTrax, Hive). But I have been surprised at how many interesting shows I have stumbled across so far. The spectrum of interests mimics that of pay TV.

One unusual Pluto.TV channel is called Slow TV. My favorite episode so far is a 7-hour real-time train journey from Bergen to Oslo. Very relaxing and immersive if you get right up to the screen like I did.

NRK, Norway’s public broadcasting company, has made nearly two dozen slow TV videos. including other train trips and coastal cruises.

But that is not typical of Pluto.TV’s fare.

I watch on a Roku 3, and it is slick and user-friendly. I found that the 2nd generation Roku LT was sluggish with the CPU-intensive Pluto.TV app. Using my Android phone by itself or with Chromecast also seems to work well.

Other personal favorites:

“The Norm MacDonald Show” on the THC Channel; I became an instant fan of his after laughing my head off at his Kojak joke on his episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. My review of CiCGC in 2014.

Over on The Feed is an all-time favorite British comedy series, “The IT Crowd”. I would be slightly abashed to go directly to my Plex or Emby channels and re-watch one of these from my own complete library, but when it turns up here, no guilt. Such is the difference between active and passive viewing.

“TableTop” on Geek & Sundry: Wil Wheaton (‘Wesley Crusher’ from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”) plays a board game with three guests. Very entertaining even if you don’t follow all the details of these complex games.

Check out the Pluto.TV website.

Albert relaxing in our home theater.

I got to wondering if home theater-themed pillow shams existed, because I didn’t want to spend a fortune, and we had some boring pillows.

Amazon has them at a very reasonable price.

It’s cheap to buy new pillows, too: Set of 4 – 18 x 18 Premium Hypoallergenic Stuffer Pillow Insert Sham Square Form Polyester

Previous decor-related posts: Sci-fi Saturday fun in the theater room, Night views of our media room, and Display LP cover art slideshow on Chromecast.

Previous Albert-related posts.

In our office: my old 1969 Sony AM/FM ST-80F stereo tuner & 1977 Kenwood KA 3500 amp, Select-A-Tenna & 1 of 2 white Realistic Minimus-7 speakers up top.

Here’s a nice way to spend a Memorial Day weekend afternoon.

KGGF-AM 690 is still a very old-fashioned radio station out of Coffeyville, Kansas. No online presence.

Tulsa is within its coverage area, but inside the house, I need a little help pulling it in.

This Select-A-Tenna connects directly by wire to the tuner. I bought this now-discontinued model from C. Crane Radio in the early 2000s.

Select-A-Tenna w/1964 Zenith Royal 40

It is also capable of working by induction without direct wired connection (see right), but this isn’t physically convenient with my tuner placement.

I simply dial 690 on the tuner, then fine tune the Select-A-Tenna. There is a big bump in the signal at a sweet spot on its dial.

KGGF carries Kansas City Royals baseball games, which is what I am now listening to.

Monday-Friday at 8:35-11 am, OpenLine (“the 4-state regions’ most popular and enduring radio program”) features news and sports plus a call-in show for people to sell stuff. This will really take you back.

You could imagine Herb Jepko and the Nightcaps coming on late in the evening. KVOO-AM in Tulsa carried this easy-going show for insomniacs 1969-71. (Link is to TTM comments and resources about Jepko)

Feels like the 1960s!


Later note:

I had to go out in the afternoon, so I tuned KGGF in the car.

On my radio, it sounded like an ionic storm howling in the background of the baseball game. Thinking of the 1960s, I noticed how many more wires and poles we have in the city today vs. yesterday.

My impression was that “the future” (today) was actively assaulting this remaining trace of a bygone era.

I may listen to a little OpenLine at home tomorrow morning. The prosaicness of the show is somehow comforting.

(Hmm, maybe that’s where the drug name Prozac came from.)

During the cord-cutting Q&A last week, the Tablo DVR device was mentioned.

Having gone with TiVo, I can’t speak from personal experience about it.

But it sounds like it could be a viable solution for OTA DVRing.

I made this comment about it:

“Yet another TiVo alternative, with 4 tuners! There is a $5 monthly charge for program guide data, but it is optional. Good low-cost choice if streaming content to other devices is important to you.”

The first and longest comment about it in the TTM Amazon aStore is a good and practical review of the product, and it was updated over a period of three years. The other two comments are useful, too:

Tablo 4-Tuner Digital Video Recorder for Over-The-Air HDTV with Wi-Fi for Live TV Streaming