Sunday, February 23, 2020

North Conway and Woodstock NH School Vacation Week Review

My wife Carol and I had the experience of heading up to North Conway, NH during School Vacation Week.

We experienced a few days with family. We had fun skiing, exploring the seasonal Ice Castles, and discovered some great places to eat.

SKIING


We put three kids, 4, 7, and 9, into the Cranmore Mountain Resort Ski School. They all loved it and were skiing up and down as much and as long as they could.





OUT TO EAT
May Kelly's Cottage North Conway

I love a good turkey dinner, and May Kelly's Cottage had one of the best turkey dinners that I've ever had.

Zip's Pub and Grill at Cranmore Mountain Resort North Conway

The hand cut potato fries were amazing. It's hard to believe, but these hand cut potato fries were some of the best I've ever had. I was on a roll.



Also, the boys loved the giant pretzels. If you don't like a lot of salt, you might have to brush some off. Good local beer list here and a huge fireplace to warm up in front of after a day of skiing.



Woodstock Inn Brewery Woodstock
20 plus years ago we began with a seven-barrel system, added a 30-barrel production facility and lab that visitors will discover on the premises today. Visit the brewery, take a tour, eat, or stay with us at the Inn

Here I ordered adult grilled cheese which is made with brewery spent grain bread, Pigs Ear Cheddar, Pecanwood smoked bacon and tomato. Guess what? It was one of the best grilled cheese ever.

ICE CASTLES
Ice Castles, Woodstock New Hampshire

Ice Castles is an award-winning frozen attraction located in six cities across North America. The experience is built using hundreds of thousands of icicles hand-placed by professional ice artists. The castles include breathtaking LED-lit sculptures, frozen thrones, ice-carved tunnels, slides, fountains and much more.





AIRBNB
Airbnb: The Treehouse (Luxury Home in N. Conway/Cranmore)

This was the first time I'd stayed in an Airbnb. Everyone in the family had their own room, and Carol and I had the Yves Saint Laurent LOVE room!



Perfect vacation paradise. Walking distance to Cranmore Mountain, North Conway Village, attached to Whitaker Woods. The main floor's open layout, wood walls and beamed ceilings, 2 gorgeous stone fireplaces - perfect spot for appetizers & drinks while watching the sunset! 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, full basement, washer/dryer (linens/towels included). New (seasonal) heated pool! (New) shuffleboard & games for kids, cable...kitchen is brilliantly equipped (enough to host a big Thanksgiving dinner!)

Not on Airbnb yet? Join Airbnb via this link and you'll get $55 off your first trip—and once you complete your reservation, I’ll get up to $30.

Review: Xfinity xFi Pods increased my dead spot coverage, but decreased overall speed

When I upgraded to the new Xfinity xFi Gateway (3rd Generation), the WiFi speeds in my house increased in speed and range.

There were a few 'dead spots' that needed a boost, so I got a 3-pack of Xfinity XFi pods to test, to see if they could help increase speed to those areas that were farthest away from my Xfinity gateway.



Setup was easy. The xFi smartphone app guides you through placement of hte xFi pods, and automatically recognizes them as you go from room to room to install them. The app allows you to add a descriptive name to help you monitor each xFi pod after installation.

My first test installed xFi Pods in the Livingroom, Kitchen, and Den, all are one floor below the Xfinity xFi Gateway (3rd Generation). For my second test, I removed the Livingroom xFi pod and moved it to the third floor bedroom, to be closer to the Xfinity xFi Gateway (3rd Generation). When researching online, I read that the WiFi signal hops from one xFi pod to the other, so having one on the third floor closer to the modem improved my performance.

In my testing, I found that although the xFi pods did increase the speed available at the farthest point from my modem, they decreased the speed in the rooms that are closer to the modem.



xFi Pods Frequently Asked Questions:
Pods will not exceed the maximum provisioned speed of your Xfinity Internet tier of service. Pods have a maximum throughput of 200 Mbps over a WiFi connection in laboratory settings. Other factors can affect speeds.

SPEED TESTS:

CONFIGURATION Prior to xFi Pod Installation

LIVINGROOM
Xfinity xFi Gateway 3rd Generation 120 Mbps

KITCHEN
Xfinity xFi Gateway 3rd Generation 100/110 Mbps

DEN
Xfinity xFi Gateway 3rd Generation 100 Mbps

FRONT DOOR
Xfinity xFi Gateway 3rd Generation 23 Mbps


xFi CONFIGURATION #1

LIVINGROOM
xFi Pod Livingroom 66/78 Mbps

KITCHEN
xFi Pod Kitchen 85/48/24 Mbps

DEN
xFi Pod Den 60/38/38/31/81 Mbps

FRONT DOOR
16/12 Mbps


xFi CONFIGURATION #2

BEDROOM
xFi Pod Bedroom 290 Mbps

KITCHEN
xFi Pod Kitchen 51 Mbps

DEN
xFi Pod Den 85 Mbps

FRONT DOOR
65 Mbps

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Review: SONY A9G MASTER Series LED 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) Smart TV (Android TV)

Review: SONY A9G MASTER Series LED 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) Smart TV (Android TV)

The vibrance of the colors on this TV are incredible. Now that I have an OLED SONY TV, I see why everyone was telling me that OLED is the only way to go. We are enjoying 4K shows on streaming services, and re-watching some favorites.



OLED
"Powered by the Picture Processor X1™ Ultimate, this OLED TV pairs the deep black and natural color of OLED with Pixel Contrast Booster™ for enhanced color contrast in high luminance. Everything you watch comes to life with fine detail and vivid color."

NETFLIX
"Enjoy studio quality with Netflix Calibrated Mode
This mode was specially developed to enjoy Netflix originals and reproduce the same picture quality on a TV as on a studio evaluation master. With Netflix Calibrated Mode, the creator's vision and intent is faithfully preserved."

AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
Amazon Prime. We enjoy these shows: Modern Love, Late Night, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Jack Ryan, The Big Sick, Hanna, and Humans.

ANDROID TV
Connecting to streaming providers is easy. Gives me a taste of the freedom of cutting the cord, although I'm also experiencing the stuttering videos of high latency, which is a problem that you don't have with cable tv.

Stuttering
I've seen stuttering with Star Trek Picard on CBS All Access. When I talked to customer support they told me that it was a latency problem that they sometimes have. The support rep said that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video don't have the same problem because they connect directly to your tv with an enhanced technology that CBS All Access has yet to invest in. I don't understand what he was referring to. He told me, "That's why CBS All Access is cheaper." LOL. I'm not sure what's going on here but would love to learn exactly what he was referring to.

Note: On Friday morning, the day after the Star Trek Picard release, the show was fine. No streaming issues. I am upgrading my internet modem and will keep an eye on this.

Upgrade: Xfinity xFi Gateway 3rd Generation

I upgraded the modem to the newest Xfinity xFi Gateway 3rd Generation XB7-T.

Specs:
Model Numbers: CGM4331COM
Friendly Model Name: XB7
Gigabit Ethernet Ports: 4
Dual-Band WiFi Option: Yes
Maximum Data Throughput: 2.5 Gbps
WPS (WiFi Protected Setup): Yes
Gateway/ Network Management Tool (http://10.0.0.1): Yes
Xfinity xFi Eligible: Yes
Two Total Telephone Ports: Yes (separate Alarm Port)
Link Cordless Phones (CAT-iq 2.0*): Yes
Home Hotspot Capable: Yes
Compatible with Xfinity Home: Yes

I also turned on the new modem's Wi-Fi. At the same time I removed the Orbi Mesh WiFi network, and turned off Bridge Mode, which I was using to allow my Orbi Mesh Network to run the Wi-Fi in the house. I wanted to rule out any variables when trying to trouble shoot my issues.

After a call to SONY support, I fixed both the Hulu no sound issue, and the CBS All Access and Disney+ stuttering video issues. For the audio issue, I went into the SONY audio settings and turned OFF Bravia Sync, and turned ON PCM.

SONY SONOS AUDIO SETTINGS FOR HULU
Image: Audio System Prioritization = OFF

SONY SONOS AUDIO SETTINGS FOR HULU
Image: Digital Audio Out = PCM

NETWORKING
I took the MAC address of the SONY TV and put it into the Xfinity Router as a fixed address instead of allowing DCHP to assign an address.

REBOOT
I also did a SOFT REBOOT of the SONY TV by holding down the power button on the SONY remote for 10 seconds.

I also used the Xfinity XFi app to reboot the Xfinity modem.

UPDATE
I had the 'no sound' and 'stuttering' happen again, even after adding in orbi mesh wifi to increse the wifi speed in the room.

I rebooted the orbi, and then unplugged and re-plugged in the tv. That fixed everything. So, the SOFT REBOOT above might have actually been the final fix the last time this happened.

SONY and SONOS
I've got a Sonos sound system, PlayBar and Sub. It supports all the latest technology including Dolby sound. It sounds great, until it doesn't sound at all. Hulu and Disney+ have gone silent at times. Hulu support had me turn off Dolby sound, and nothing happened, until I tried it again the next morning and it worked. It's a mystery. Solved for now. If I had to guess, I'd say that Amazon Prime Video and Netflix have superior apps.

AMAZON ECHO
You can control the tv with your Amazon Echo device. You can also, add the Amazon Echo app to allow you access to your ring devices and say things like, "Alexa, Show me my front door on the Den TV." FAQ - Control your Android TV with Amazon Alexa-enabled Devices.



XFINITY
Comcast Xfinity provides both cable tv and internet service used by this tv. In an environment of cord cutting, where this tv supports sampling streaming TV shows, I can see the appeal of steaming via the smart tv, but what you lose is one central place to get help for anything that doesn't work. Also, Comcast Xfinity has been broadcasting live tv and cable for years and years, and you never have issues with connectivity or stuttering. Some reasons to think twice before cutting the cord.

SPEED TESTS
Here are updated speed tests for different locations around the house. Prior testing was done with eero and orbi mesh WiFi devices. This test uses just the Xfinity xFi 3rd Generation Gateway, with one ring WiFi extender on the front porch.

SPEED TESTS:

OFFICE
BEFORE(Wired Base eero) 230 Mbps
AFTER (Wired Base orbi) 230 Mbps

UPDATE (Xfinity xFi Gateway 3rd Generation) WiFi 120/130/310 Mbps
UPDATE (Xfinity xFi Gateway 3rd Generation) Wired 1 GB Port 950 Mbps


Image: Fast.com Internet Speed Test 1.8 Gbps

LIVINGROOM
AFTER (Wired Satellite eero) 220 Mbps
AFTER (WiFi Satellite orbi) 210 Mbps

UPDATE (Xfinity xFi Gateway 3rd Generation) 120 Mbps

KITCHEN
BEFORE (WiFi Satellite eero) 110 Mbps
AFTER (WiFi Satellite orbi) 210 Mbps

UPDATE (Xfinity xFi Gateway 3rd Generation) 100/110 Mbps

DEN
BEFORE (WiFi Satellite eero) 59 Mbps
AFTER (WiFi Satellite orbi) 210 Mbps

UPDATE (Xfinity xFi Gateway 3rd Generation) 100 Mbps

Note: You need a minimum of 25 mbps to stream Ultra HD on Netflix.

FRONT DOOR
BEFORE 45 Mbps
AFTER 220 Mbps

UPDATE (Xfinity xFi Gateway 3rd Generation) 23 Mbps

SALES AND HOME INSTALLATION
My nephew, Independent Security Systems, Inc, installed this tv along with a Sonos sound system. He can do the same for you, if you are in the greater Boston area.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

How To: Set default email client in Chrome

I'm using a Beta version of Airmail, and want it to be my default email client in Chrome. When I click to send a web page via email, the standard version of Airmail opens.

Here's how to set the preferred Chrome browser mail client. You do it in Apple Mail!

1. Open Mail.app
2. Go to Preferences->General->Default Email Reader