Samsung HL-T5676S 56″ Rear Projection 1080p HDTV For My Parents

First of all, let me wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

After being spoiled by my Vizio 46″ 1080p LCD TV at home, watching my parents ancient Pioneer 56″ regular rear projection TV (at least 10 years old) actually hurt my eyes. So I decided to get them a new HDTV for Christmas. I talked it over with my siblings and they decided they’d like to chip in. I had set my initial budget to less than $2000, but was really aiming for close to $1500.

Since we have a large living room, I decided the most economic way to go was rear projection DLP. They have the space and they really need a large screen if you want to see anything from the couch.

I search the regular stores online: Costco, Circuit City, Best Buy, etc. and found a interesting few. I was pretty set on getting the Samsung HL-T5676S from Circuit City. I had a 10% off coupon, I could get 5% back with my credit card, and I could get an additional 3% back via BigCrumbs (cash back service). I talked it over with Ungsunghero and he even offered to sell me his $300 gift certificate at a discount (I forget how much). Anyway, Ungsunghero seemed interested in helping me search for a TV insisted on helping me spend my money and a day later, he showed me this: Samsung HL-T5676S Projection TV 56-inch Slim 1080p DLP Rear Projection HDTV at OneCall.com.

At that time, there was an additional $50 discount. Given that there was no tax and free shipping, this would come to a total of $1450, whereas the Circuit City one would’ve come to a total of $1600+. Anyway, I called up OneCall to figure out how the shipping would go. I needed the TV to arrive before I leave so I can help them set it up. They said it’d take 3-4 days and I thought that’d work out nicely. I placed my order over the phone and the customer service rep was very helpful in explaining everything: how the process will work, what to do when I receive the TV, and what to do I notice any problems with it.

I had placed the TV on Wednesday and was expecting it to be delivered on either Monday or Tuesday, but surprisingly on Thursday morning, I get a call from FedEx Freight asking me if they can deliver the TV between the hours for 10am-2pm on Friday. Wow! Their ship center must be really close by.

I began setting up the TV that afternoon and it was amazed at the quality.
samsung hl-t5676s hdtvsamsung hl-t5676s hdtv

Here’s a shot of old Pioneer 56″ TV:
pioneer 56inch tv

I knew we’d need a TV stand, and was hoping one of our existing ones would fit. Unfortunately not, so we had to improvise with a temporary stand:
samsung hl-t5676s hdtv and temporary stand

My parents found a stand they liked at Walmart, but they were out of stock. However, the next time we went there, it was suddenly in stock again:
samsung hl-t5676s hdtv and stand

Seeing stuff in 1080p off the media center PC is always neat. I connected all the existing equipment to the TV and most of them worked fine. Turns out our VCR was dead, but that wasn’t due to the TV.

I also learnt that Charter Communications (our cable provider) used HRC instead of STD, so I was initially surprised that scanning the cable TV resulted in 0 channels found. There was also an IRC option. Looking further into this, it turns out HRC stands for Harmonically-related carriers and IRC stands for Incrementally-related carriers, 2 different methods for modulating video over cable network. From the source:

Standard:
Frequency_in_MHz = ( 6 * ( 8 + channel_designation ) ) + 1.25

HRC:
Frequency_in_MHz = 6.0003 * ( 8 + channel_designation )

IRC:
Frequency_in_MHz = ( 6 * ( 8 + channel_designation ) ) + 1.2625

However, I was quite shocked to find out how many QAM channels there were. There were at least 8 Chinese channels include Jade/TVB (翡翠台), which according to Charter was removed from analog cable and moved to digital cable and said we’d need to purchase a digital cable subscription to watch it. Guess all we really needed was a QAM tuner.

My brother brought home his Wii and we enjoyed playing Super Paper Mario, Wii Tennis, Wii Bowling, and Ghost Squad so far on it. Ghost Squad is actually quite fun. Reminds me of Time Crisis.

Weekly Top Posts (12/16/2007 to 12/22/2007)

Here’s this week’s top post:

  1. How to download HD Trailers from Apple.com (Last week: #1)
  2. Print USPS First Class, Media Mail, Parcel Mail Postage for FREE! (Last week: #2)
  3. 4 Free Xbox Live Arcade Games (Last week: #3)
  4. up arrow Haloid (Last week: #9)
  5. up arrow Free AutoCheck Report (Similar to Carfax) (Last week: #6)
  6. down arrow LeekSpin (Last week: #5)
  7. Animal Crossing Tragedy (Last week: #7)
  8. up arrow Canon PSC-1000 (New)
  9. down arrow Spinning Dancer (Last week: #4)
  10. iTunes Album Views (Last week: #10)

Previously…

My guess for the increase view of the Canon PSC-1000 is the fact that the Canon SD1000 digital camera has been on sale recently, and given that it’s near Christmas and many SD1000s are being given as gifts, they thought a nice camera case would go along with it.

The case is actually quite nice, thought a bit expensive. The hole on the top where the wrist-strap goes through is a bit too small. I actually took and scissor and made the hole bigger. Turned out rather well.

Treasure Hunting

So for the past few days, I’ve been going through my junk inside my desk drawers and found a bunch of neat things.

First I found a bunch of missing Anime CDs which were missing from my collection for quite awhile.

Then I located a caricature someone drew of me a long time ago, when I had these Nike basketball shoes with a very large tongue. I forget why they drew me with a sword on my back, because I obviously didn’t go around carrying one on my back:

toland caricature carrying sword

Then my grandma gave me this photo of when I was a kid, riding a turtle with my cousin.
mokin, barry, and toland riding turtle

My mom tells me this was when I was 1-2 years old and this was some zoo in New York.

I also located the ink stamp that I had custom made the last time I was in Hong Kong:
ink stampink stampink stampink stampink stampink stamp

As you can see, I didn’t really have anything to stamp it on, and a CD envelope was nearby and it became my test subject.

Found some more interesting stuff, but didn’t really have time to scan or take photos of it. Besides, the main purpose of this post is so that I don’t post 2 “Weekly Top Posts” next to each other.

Weekly Top Posts (12/9/2007 to 12/15/2007)

Here’s this week’s top post:

  1. How to download HD Trailers from Apple.com (Last week: #1)
  2. up arrow Print USPS First Class, Media Mail, Parcel Mail Postage for FREE! (Last week: #8)
  3. down arrow 4 Free Xbox Live Arcade Games (Last week: #2)
  4. up arrow Spinning Dancer (Last week: #5)
  5. down arrow LeekSpin (Last week: #4)
  6. up arrow Free AutoCheck Report (Similar to Carfax) (Last week: #7)
  7. down arrow Animal Crossing Tragedy (Last week: #6)
  8. up arrow Music from The Inner Life of a Cell (Last week: #10)
  9. down arrow Haloid (Last week: #3)
  10. up arrow iTunes Album Views (New)

Previously…

Free Outgoing Calls

So awhile back, I hit onto this page while searching for VoIP info: Zero Cost Voip Calls. The blog really only has 2 entries:

This gave me an idea on how to make free outgoing calls with my current setup: VoiceStick Replacement – IPKall with GrandCentral

I basically have unlimited incoming calls now due to IPKall + FWD + PAP2. But to make outgoing phone calls, I still had to use my cell phone, and what sucks about making phone calls to customer service and technical support is that you’re on hold typically for over 30 minutes and that drains your minutes quite fast.

Anyway, it turns out GrandCentral connects you with anyone in your address book on their dime. It’s similar to the function on Google Maps when you find the business you want to contact, and they have the “call” button which prompts you for your phone number and connects you directly to them.

So you just need to create an entry in your GrandCentral address book and then click call. What happens then is they’ll call you directly on your line and since you don’t pay for incoming calls, it’s a free call to you. Once they confirmed that there’s someone on your side, they’ll connect you to the other party. Simple as that.

What’s neat about this is that you can basically make any phone calls within the United States for FREE! I’m not sure about Canada, but it’d be sweet if you can make calls to Canada for free too.

These past few days I’ve been playing with GrandCentral a bit since I’ve set it up for my parents and there are some very neat things. One really neat thing is the ability to record a conversation. Even if you selected to not record initially, you can hit “4” in the middle of the conversation and it’ll begin to record immediately. However, they appear to have only enabled that for calls you receive and not calls you’ve initiated from their web UI.

Another interesting thing is RingShare, where you can customize the ring people hear when calling you. By default, it’s set to the American ring, but you also have the British ring and the Japanese ring. You can also go through the gallery and choose from a small selection of chimes and even people talking.

One thing I really want is the option to turn off the screening process completely. Even with Call Screening off, it still prompts me to push 1 to start chatting. I can definitely see it as a useful feature, but to my parents, it just complicates the process.

Unlocking PAP2 Adventure

So I had quite some fun unlocking the PAP2. And by fun, I really meant headaches. First sign of trouble was when I noticed this PAP2 came with the 3.1.9 firmware which makes it impeccably harder to unlock than anything before.

However the guides posted on B$: Linksys PAP2 Unlock Info also included instructions on unlocking for firmwares 3.1.9 and higher, however they’re much more difficult. When unlocking my previous PAP2, all I had to do was setup a TFTP server and force it to upgrade the firmware. However the latest firmware prevents updating the firmware without administrator access and the admin password isn’t provided.

These new instructions required me to setup the following:

  • TFTP Server
  • DNS Server
  • HTTP Server

The instructions also called for setting up a DHCP server, but I decided to use my router to do that.

I ended up using SolarWinds TFTP Server, SHTTPD, and Simple DNS Plus. At first I wanted to use IIS that comes with XP, but I was hitting into issues with permissions and I just didn’t want to deal with that.

I pointed *.vonage.net to my main box that was hosting the the TFTP server and HTTP server. Following the directions, I created a similar environment that the PAP2 would try to connect and update the firmware with, which required getting the actual encrypted updated xml, but replacing at the location of where the new firmware is supposed to be, with something that I had.

After doing the 1st step, I hit into a snag. No longer was I able to access the PAP2 via the browser nor would **** access the IVR (interactive voice response) system. However, looking at my DNS and TFTP logs, I noticed that it would still try to connect to different address at *.vonage.net. I thought I’d just “bricked” my PAP2 and began looking replacements for it on Amazon. Meanwhile, I left a message for Diggler on the forums telling him about my situation and asking if it’s recoverable at all.

Diggler comes back and tells me the good news. Turns out I didn’t kill my PAP2 and this was expected if it was able to get the encrypted xml, but not the updated firmware. The updated xml file told it to disable web access and if I continue to hit *s, the IVR system will eventually come up. With the ability to reset the PAP2 now that I can access the IVR system, I would be able to repeat this for as many times as I want.

So I decided to check the logs on my SHTTP server and even though it was sending the file, the logs show 404. Someone else said they were having problems with SHTTP and said wxWebServer had worked for them. I also tried this, but it didn’t work and no logs were generated. I finally gave up and decided to go back to IIS and BAM! It worked!

The rest of the unlocking steps were pretty straight forward.

Other useful guides:

I then setup GrandCentral to IPKall to FWD and now line 1 at my parents house is a new number they can use to receive calls. I was surprised that sticking the PAP2 into a line 1 jack actually made all the line 1 jacks in the house work. Derek had told me that it’s worked for him, but I had little luck back at my place. Then again, I really just plugged it into a jack and then plugged in a phone in a different jack, and that didn’t work.

With the web UI, they can also make calls, but that’s a blog entry I’ve been meaning to post for some time. Maybe sometime soon.

A Wizard of Earthsea

So Liam got a book when he came to visit me: A Wizard of Earthsea. Being not much of a book reader, I honestly doubted myself if I’d ever open the book. However, my trip back to LA gave me the opportunity to do just so, and before I knew it, I had completed 3/4 of the book by the end of the journey. I’ve finished the book since then, but wanted to share a few quotes that I really liked and you’ve probably heard of in different forms.

  • What one does not know, one fears. – Lady Serret (in response to Ged’s fear of the Terrenon stone)
  • You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do… – Master Summoner

There was another great quote in regards to the fact that even though you may have power, if you lack the knowledge to control it, it’s not really any power you can use. So one can be born with great power, but it is knowledge that allows one to use it.

UPDATE:
Forgot to mention that I had already seen Tales From Earthsea, a recent animation done by Studio Ghibli. This is the 1st film directed by Miyazaki Goro, son of Miyazaki Hayao. Throughout the book, I would imagine Ged/Sparrowhawk to be this old man, but in fact I believe in this book, he’s really around 20 years old. I thought the animation was pretty good, but nowhere close to his father’s work.

These Past Few Days…

Sorry for not posting for the past few days. Been busing fixing stuff around the house. First I had to fix my stupid computer. It was pretty obvious either the motherboard or cpu was the one causing all the reboots, so I brought home my old motherboard and cpu from my previous computer (which has been upgraded since) and everything’s been flawless since. No random reboots. I did spend half a day reinstalling Windows XP and random software and doing updates.

The next thing I had brought home was a Slingbox and Buffalo WHR-G54S wireless router. My dad had subscribed to Satellite TV and wanted to watch it on other TVs and computers and since our main TV already had a computer, it seemed like the right thing to do.

First I decided to flash it with DD-WRT, but it turns out I can’t use the default flashing tool provided, and had to do it via a TFTP server (instructions). It wasn’t too bad. The reason for the router was to use it as a client bridge so that it can talk wireless to my existing network. I deemed it too much trouble to drag an ethernet cable all the way to the kitchen. Setting it up was pretty simple. I gave it a static IP and increased the Xmit Power to 100mW since it was going to be further away. I set wireless mode to client bridge and set the WPA password and it worked pretty much flawlessly afterwards.

The SlingBox was also quite easy to setup. Hooking it up to the TV and satellite receiver was simple. Then I just ran the setup program and it immediately started working. There’s some voodoo magic going on since it can automatically find it without me providing an IP address. However, I hit a snatch when trying to control it with the IR emitters. Turns out the plug wasn’t inserted snuggly so it wasn’t really emitting anything while I was trying all the different remote codes.

The classic SlingBox which I got supported BOTH cable TV antenna and composite (RCA) inputs. However, in the newer SlingBoxes, I’ve noticed that they’ve split the cable TV one into its own product and the composite one into its own product. Maybe they have higher quality but it would suck if I had to switch to the other.

Finally it came to my PAP2… actually, I’ll save that for tomorrow.