Well.ca Coupon Code

January 24th, 2016 No comments

This is a blatant attempt to generate Well.ca referral coupons for me.  If you use the following code, you and I will both receive $10 off our next order of $40 or more.

ToaoNetCoupon

Thanks!

Mango's 2016 800 Lumen LED Bulb Roundup

December 26th, 2015 No comments

We decided to compare the top bulbs from the top manufacturers.  We chose candidates by looking at results from internet polls, and comparing them with bulbs easy to find at national retailers.  Our LED Bulb Reviews are elsewhere on the blog.  Here is a summary of our tests, ranked in our order of preference.  All bulbs are 800-815 lumens, and 2700K, except the Feit bulb which is 3000K.

Philips 9.5W Warm Glow
As usual, Philips' latest light bulb is in first place for our favourite.  This is a pretty great bulb that dimmed silently or nearly silently depending on the dimmer.  Not only did it dim smoothly with no flicker, its colour temperature dropped just like an incandescent bulb.  Barely-detectable EMI.

Sunbeam/L'Image 9.9W (High CRI)
We've only seen this bulb for sale at Costco.  Its dimmer compatibility list has a short 11 models on it, but it did dim well with our electronic low voltage dimmer (no flicker/silent), even though our dimmer was not on the list.  One advantage to this bulb is that its minimum start temperature is -40C.  The bulb's price of $5.10 is very low for a 25,000 hour, 9.9W bulb.  We have not yet tested the manufacturer's claim of 90 CRI, but by eye, the bulb looks great.  The bulb seems to have a "two stage" start, and is at half brightness for a few milliseconds when first turned on.  Minor amount of EMI.  Overall an excellent bulb.

Feit 2700K 9.5W Enhance (High CRI)
We find it difficult to visually tell the difference between 80 and 92 CRI, but our camera could.  It is suitable for use in fully enclosed fixtures.  This excellent bulb was disappointing only in its greater-than-average electromagnetic interference.

Feit 3000K 9.5W
The light produced by this bulb is very obviously different from a 2700K bulb, so don't expect to mix them like you can with halogen and tungsten.  Everyone in our test group thought light produced by this bulb looked like daylight.  After a few days, we decided we liked it better than 2700K.  This bulb dims with a slight but relatively nonobtrusive buzz.

Philips 8.5W
This bulb is only rated for an oddly specific 10,950 hours instead of 25,000+ like much of the rest of the bulbs we tested.  However, this is offset by its lower power consumption and lower purchase price.  The bulb appears slightly brighter than 2700K.  If you don't plan to dim your bulbs, and don't have a Costco membership for the Sunbeam, you may wish to choose this one due to its lower initial cost.  This bulb produces a barely perceptible buzz, but is imperceptible from more than a foot away.  Also has a slight flicker upon turning on, but then is flicker-free.

Cree 4Flow 11W
The is the first Cree bulb we've owned that actually looks good enough to not be relegated to our outside fixtures where we don't have to look at it.  Unfortunately, the electromagnetic interference it generates is still higher than the competition, as is its 11W power consumption.  This combined with its relatively high purchase price will keep us from buying more.  One advantage to this bulb is that it may be used in fully enclosed fixtures.  This bulb dims well (barely perceptible buzz).  The Cree 4Flow is the most expensive bulb over 10,000 hours that we tested.

Philips SlimStyle 10.5W
This is the first LED bulb that we ever tested that produced good quality light for a relatively low price.  We still think it produces good quality light, but its 10.5W power consumption, poor performance with dimmers, and unusual shape, will prevent us from buying more, now that better bulbs are on the market.

Update - Noma 810 Lumens 3000K 8.5W 25000 hr bulb
More details to follow when I get the time - but suffice to say this bulb is pretty great.  Haven't tested it with dimmers yet.

Cree makes light bulb that doesn't suck as much, green tech blogger nonplussed

December 25th, 2015 No comments

If nothing else convinces you that Mango is open-minded, this will.  It's an actual positive review for a Cree light bulb.  We'll wait while you pick yourself up off the floor.  Then, we'll continue.

The first thing you'll notice is that Cree's new 4Flow bulb sports an interesting heat dissipation design: ventilation holes in the top and bottom of the bulb.  But, forget that.  The light produced by this bulb looks actually good.  For once, a Cree bulb won't be relegated to our outdoor fixtures where we don't have to see it much, or simply not used at all.

Light quality: Very good.  We could not tell the difference between this and an incandescent bulb.

Light quality when dimmed: Very good.  The bulb dimmed smoothly with both our Leviton 6615 (trailing edge) and MACL-153M (leading edge) dimmers.

Buzz/hum: None detectable.

Buzz/hum when dimmed: Very low.  It is unlikely the bulb would be heard in a quiet room.

RF interference: Like Cree's other bulbs, this bulb produced a mild amount of electromagnetic interference.  However, when we moved our radio several feet away, the radio worked properly.

Notes: The bulb's packaging does not prohibit its use in fully enclosed fixtures.

Price: $10.97 at Home Depot Canada.



Best Buy Customer Service

December 21st, 2015 No comments

We almost never shop at Best Buy, until they have a deal that's too good to pass up.  Then we remember why we almost never shop at Best Buy, and the cycle starts over.  Most recently on Black Friday, they had a TV for 40% off that fit the exact specifications of a TV we needed for a project, so we bought it.  After many tries over half a day, we were able to check out.  Astonishingly, the TV was shipped as scheduled and arrived without incident.

Then we tried to obtain a receipt for the order, as required for our audit purposes.

Read more...

Philips 9.5W Warm Glow LED Review - if you want a dimmable LED with no buzz and no flicker, read this

October 26th, 2015 No comments

Recently we worked on a project requiring dimmable LED light.  Not only did the lights need to be dimmable, but the project also had the following requirements: the bulbs and dimmer must be silent, there must be no visible flicker, and electromagnetic interference must be kept to an absolute minimum.  We tested nine bulbs from five manufacturers, on both leading and trailing edge dimmers, and the combination of Philips' 9.5W Warm Glow LED with a Leviton 6615 (trailing edge) dimmer was THE ONLY combination that satisfied all the requirements.

Light quality: Very good.  We could not tell the difference between this and an incandescent bulb.

Light quality when dimmed: Excellent.  The bulb dimmed very smoothly with no flicker using both our leading and trailing edge dimmers.  Not only that, its colour temperature changed slightly just as incandescent bulbs do.

Buzz/hum: None detectable.

Buzz/hum when dimmed, Lutron MACL-153M (leading edge) dimmer: Barely perceptible.  It is unlikely you would hear the buzz in a quiet room.

Buzz/hum when dimmed, Leviton 6615 (trailing edge) dimmer: Completely silent.

RF interference: It was difficult to detect electromagnetic interference, even with a meter.

Price: $11.98 at Home Depot Canada.

Maximum Image Size - WordPress Plugin

September 24th, 2015 No comments

Sometimes, it's not necessary to keep copies of full resolution images on your web server.  But, when you solicit images from many sources, you may not be able to rely on users to size images to your specifications.  Here's a very simple plugin that removes the full resolution image and replaces it with an image resized to your preference.

The plugin makes no changes to your database and is written with just 17 lines of code.

Installation:

1) Download the plugin: Maximum Image Size
2) From with in the WordPress Admin Panel, Navigate to Plugins >> Add New >> Upload Plugin.  Upload the file you just downloaded in step 1).
3) Activate the plugin.

Configuration:

This plugin has no configuration.  It works based on the Large image size, a configuration option which already exists in the WordPress core.  You may configure this by navigating to Settings >> Media.

Tip: If you do not wish to retain a Medium image, set both Max Width and Max Height to 0.

I have a new hobby, and it's making ice cream

July 28th, 2015 No comments

...because that seems like a reasonable thing for a 30-year-old man to do for his hobby.

Mangosteen bought a Cuisinart ice cream maker off Kijiji some time ago, but I only tried it for the first time this week.  The verdict: heaven in a dessert cup.  I made up the recipe by myself and the result is without question the finest ice cream I've ever tasted.  It even scoops just like hard ice cream from a store.



Keep reading for the recipe used to make the ice cream shown in the picture above.

Read more...

Review: 2015 Philips 60W Replacement LED

June 11th, 2015 No comments

On a recent trip to the United States, we made a special trip to Home Depot to pick up some of Philips' new 60W Replacement LED bulbs.  These bulbs don't have a special brand name like the SlimStyle does, and Philips has several 60W Replacement LEDs.  The ones we bought were the ones just released this spring, at the time on sale (USA only) for an astonishing $4.97 for a pack of two.

This bulb is incredibly affordable.  We've calculated that at its current sale price and with our use, we'll only need to use it for five weeks before it becomes cheaper than an incandescent bulb.  While we've no complaints about new technology being affordable, we hope that Philips will maintain its reputation for quality, and that cheap bulbs that last for a decade or more will be profitable.

Here's our review of the 2015 Philips 60W Replacement LED.

Light quality: Good.  We could tell the difference between this and an incandescent bulb, however, the light produced by this bulb was still pleasing.

Light quality when dimmed: Not supported.

Buzz/hum: Barely perceptible.  It is unlikely you would hear the buzz in a quiet room.

Buzz/hum when dimmed: Not supported.

RF interference: No problems detected with equipment on frequencies from 500 Mhz - 2.4Ghz.

Price: $9.97 for a pack of two at Home Depot in Canada.  Note: The per-bulb cost in some bulk packs of this product is higher than small packs.  Shop carefully.

Other notes:
- The bulb's low cost comes from its estimated 10,950 hour life and lack of support for dimmers.
- The bulbs are manufactured in China.

DIY Windshield Stone Chip Repair

March 27th, 2015 No comments

Did you know that DIYing a windshield stone chip repair is cheap and relatively easy, with results just as good as or better than the professionals?  Why spend $50 or more when you can do it yourself for 1/5 of the price?

If you can read and follow instructions, (and if you can't - look for Permatex's YouTube channel) you can repair a stone chip in your windshield - both to improve the appearance, and prevent the chip from turning into a crack.  The kit we use is the Permatex Bullseye Windshield Repair Kit.  Not only do the results look great, our oldest repair is over a year old and shows no signs of cracking.  Take a look:



On the left is the chip before repair.  In the middle is the repaired chip.  On the right is a professionally-repaired chip for comparison.  As you can see, the repair that we did reduced the appearance of the chip by two thirds or more.  With smaller chips, the repair is completely invisible.

While the product's performance is excellent, our only complaint is that there is just 0.025 fl. oz of resin included in each kit.  The included tools are all reusable (clean while still wet with acetone or rubbing alcohol) and thick and wide double-sided tape is easy to find.  If anyone knows where to buy more resin, let us know.

Convert audio files to ulaw for use with a VoIP PBX

January 21st, 2015 2 comments

Converting high quality audio files to ulaw is easy, but making them sound good takes some effort.  Keep reading for the technique we use.

Read more...

Vegan perfect flat-top Pumpkin Pie

January 2nd, 2015 No comments

For years we've wanted to know how to make a pumpkin pie with a perfectly flat top.  One answer: have a kid who doesn't eat eggs or milk.

Blend 8 oz (227 g) soft tofu in a blender until very smooth, adding up to 15 oz (425 g) canned pumpkin if necessary so that the blender works properly.  Transfer to a mixing bowl along with any remaining canned pumpkin, 1/3 cup fructose, 1/3 cup maple sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.  Use a stand or hand mixer to mix very well.  Add 2 tablespoons corn starch and mix one final time.  Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350F for 45 minutes.  Cool to room temperature, then chill for at least two hours.

Variation: instead of the fructose and maple sugar, use 2/3 cup white and/or brown cane sugar.  We found the flavour of beet sugar strong enough to overpower the taste of the pumpkin.

Wired remote control for a BenQ SP831 Projector

October 31st, 2014 No comments

Recently we needed to control a digital projector outside of the IR range of its remote.  The projector and remote were both capable of connecting via a cable, but no documentation was provided on how to do so.  This is what we discovered in testing:

- The plug required is 2.5mm TRS (stereo).  TS did not work.
- Though TRS is required, only two conductors (RS) are used.
- The jack on the remote is recessed far enough that the housing of most 2.5mm plugs we tried prevented them from being plugged in.  We eventually found a mobile phone headset cable that fit.  Its hairlike wires required soldering with painstaking precision.

Due to using pre-installed and unused cable, our finished product was as follows:

Custom-built 2.5mm TRS to RCA adapter -> 50' of RCA cable -> RCA to XLR adapter -> 200' of XLR cable -> custom-built XLR to 2.5mm TRS adapter.

This project would have been significantly simpler if the remote (a) did not have a recessed jack and (b) accepted a TS cable (which would be compatible with TRS).  Since only two conductors are used, it's pointless to design a jack that demands a three-conductor plug.

Update: We discovered that the remote inexplicably stops working if it is plugged in for an indeterminate amount of time.  So, we unplug the remote when it is not in use.

Dairy-free Lemon Tapioca Pudding

October 20th, 2014 No comments

This excellent recipe is just as phenomenal as the original.

2 400 mL cans coconut milk
⅓-½ cup sugar
¼ cup quick cooking (Minute brand or similar) tapioca
1 large egg
Finely-grated rind of ½ lemon
Juice of one lemon

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Beat very well, and then allow to stand for 15 minutes.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring every minute or two to prevent the pudding from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Allow to cool for 30 minutes.  Beat well before serving warm or cold.

Review: Philips SlimStyle LED Bulb

October 19th, 2014 No comments

Canada has already phased out 75- and 100-watt incandescent bulbs, with 40- and 60-watt to follow at the end of the year.  But according to a public opinion poll published on the Toronto Sun's website, 86% of respondents stated they still used incandescent light bulbs.  If this were a political blog, we would explore the topic of why the government is making a product that is used by 86% of voters difficult to buy, instead of encouraging industry to make the alternatives significantly better.  But it isn't, so we won't.

Instead, we'll talk about the new Philips SlimStyle LED bulb.  This bulb was released just this year - none too soon for those who don't care for CFLs, and who have found the performance of every other LED bulb on the market mediocre.


Light quality: Very good.  We could not tell the difference between this and an incandescent bulb.  However, the bulb looked odd in some fixtures when turned to certain angles.

Light quality when dimmed: Noticeable flicker, even though both of the dimmers we used were on the bulb's compatibility list.

Buzz/hum: None observed.

Buzz/hum when dimmed: Moderate.  The bulb could be heard in a quiet room.

RF interference: It was difficult to detect electromagnetic interference, even with a meter.

Price: $6.97 at Home Depot Canada.

More commentary follows.

Read more...

Lenny, the bot that tricks telemarketers

September 15th, 2014 14 comments

Not all telemarketers are evil.  It's the 99% give the 1% a bad name.

The 99% are the telemarketers who don't respect the Do Not Call List.  Or they purchase a copy of it, and market specifically to it.  Perhaps they're exempt from respecting the DNCL, and they call people who are listed just because they can.  They run credit card or vacation scams.  They spoof their Caller ID so you think it's your neighbour calling you.  They call at 9PM and wake your kids up.

For those telemarketers, there is Lenny.  Lenny is a hilarious set of very convincing recordings designed to fool telemarketers into thinking they've called a real person.  Have a listen:


Want to talk to Lenny, or transfer/conference a telemarketer in with him?  If you use VoIP and can call a SIP URI, he can be reached at sip:13475147296@in.callcentric.com.  Or you can call him at 1-347-514-7296.  (Prank calls to this number are not allowed.  Lenny is for incoming, telemarketing calls only - not for annoying innocent people.)

For plenty more recordings, visit Lenny's YouTube channel.

Download music from CBC.ca via the Brightcove player

September 15th, 2014 1 comment

This is our procedure for downloading music in MP3 format from CBC's Brightcove player.

Read more...

Can't work with large files via WebDAV or cPanel Web Disk?  Here's the fix.

September 10th, 2014 No comments

cPanel's Web Disk uses the WebDAV protocol to allow you to manipulate files on your hosting account via Windows Explorer, just as if it were a drive letter.  The best part is that support for this is already built in to Windows.  You needn't even install any software.

By default, Windows prevents you from working with files greater than 50MB, and for longer than 30 minutes, but that can be fixed with a simple registry change.  You can make the change with Registry Editor, or copy the text below, save it as a file with the extension .reg, and run it.
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
 
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\WebClient\Parameters]
"FileSizeLimitInBytes"=dword:ffffffff
 
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\MRxDAV\Parameters]
"FsCtlRequestTimeoutInSec"=dword:00002a30

WinCalcHelper improves the Windows Calculator

September 10th, 2014 No comments

We use the Windows Calculator a great deal, but wanted to make it more efficient.  AutoHotkey was happy to oblige.  This script adds the following features:

  • Pressing your keyboard's Calculator key turns Num Lock on if it is off.
  • Pressing your keyboard's Calculator key recalls the most recently used Calculator, or opens a new one if a Calculator is currently active.
  • Holding your keyboard's Calculator key closes the active Calculator.
  • Using the Windows + Arrow keys allows you to position the calculator.
  • The Num Lock key can be used to clear the calculator.
Read more...

AutoHotkey allows you to use your mouse buttons to move between browser tabs

September 10th, 2014 2 comments

Here's an AutoHotkey script we wrote that allows you to use the buttons on a mouse to switch between browser tabs.  To use it, hold down the left mouse button while clicking the browser back or forward buttons.
#NoTrayIcon
#SingleInstance force
~LButton & XButton1::Send {Blind}{LButton Up}^+{Tab}
~LButton & XButton2::Send {Blind}{LButton Up}^{Tab}
To run or compile this script, here's a free download of AutoHotkey.

Has your router set up secret port forwards without your knowledge?

February 18th, 2014 No comments

I admit the title may be a little bit sensational.  Please forgive me and read this anyway.  For the tl;dr, scroll down to the link to the STUN Test Utility.

It's a common misconception that placing a network device behind a router provides impenetrable security.  This might be true, but if you have a full cone NAT router, your VoIP equipment (and possibly other internet-connected devices) are likely be open to anyone, as if you had forwarded ports or used DMZ.  Instead, you should use a restricted cone NAT router.  Keep reading to find out what these terms mean how to test your router.

Read more...

Pumpkin Pie

February 15th, 2014 No comments

Pumpkin pie in February?  What Mangosteen wants for Valentine's day, Mangosteen gets!

1 398 mL (15 oz by weight) can pumpkin
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 300 mL (14 oz by weight) can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 9" deep dish pie shell

Thoroughly mix pumpkin and spices.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Pour into prepared pie shell.  Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350F and bake for another 45 minutes.  Turn off oven and allow pie to cool.  When the pie plate is cool enough to be safely touched with your hands, remove the pie from the oven and enjoy!

Mango's Guide to Configuring an OBi100, OBi110, OBi202, OBi200, OBi302, and OBi300 ATA

August 16th, 2013 1 comment

OBi100We used Linksys ATAs for many years but upgraded to Obihai when we needed a device with an FXO port.  Obihai has outdone themselves and created some devices that are even more configurable than their older PAP2T, SPA2102, and SPA3102.  OBi ATAs are deficient in only a few ways - for example a mediocre jitter buffer, and no way of routing calls based on Caller ID Name or customizing Caller ID Name.  Perhaps most disappointingly, the FXS/FXO relay has been removed in hardware version 3.4 of the OBi110, meaning that during a power outage, your POTS line will not function.  Fortunately, OBi ATAs' good qualities - particularly their excellent audio quality and powerful call routing - far exceed their shortcomings and they are what we believe to be the finest ATAs available today.

If your device is out of warranty, read this: Multiple reports of OBi1 devices failing firmware upgradetl;dr: We have decided not to upgrade past version 1.3.0 (Build: 2824).

Read more...

Improving SpamAssassin accuracy on cPanel (or any other) mail servers - with statistics

July 25th, 2013 4 comments

For some time we've been frustrated by the amount of spam not caught by our spam filter.  We're delighted to say we've developed a simple configuration that results in extremely high accuracy.  Though some of the techniques in this article are related to cPanel servers, the most important points should work with any mail server running SpamAssassin.

Keep reading to see the rules we use and why we use them, as well as statistics for actual mail addressed to Mango's personal email address.

Read more...

Mango's User Configurable Scheduled cPanel Full Backup

March 12th, 2013 5 comments

Mango has always wanted to make it as easy as possible for users to make backups.  If you're a cPanel administrator, consider this script as part of your disaster recovery plan.  It will rsync a full backup anywhere the user likes, and allows the user to configure the location of the backup and how many backups will be retained.  Since its authorization is by RSA key, it does not require passwords to be stored in the configuration file.

Suggested use for users: By default, full backups are large and take a lot of server resources to create.  Why not exclude your home directory by placing a single * in cpbackup-exclude.conf, and rsync the full backup to your home directory?  Then rsync your home directory to your NAS device a few times per week.  Using rsync requires much less resources because it only copies files that have changed since the last rsync.

Here's the script: http://www.toao.net/pub/cpbackup-mango.php

Map a directory on a MyBook Live NAS to a Windows drive letter over the internet with SSHFS and Samba

February 3rd, 2013 No comments

We needed to be able to access a directory on a MyBook Live via a Windows drive letter and evaluated a few options.  Samba works well if the file server and client are on the same LAN, but we discovered it painfully slow when used via an SSH tunnel over the internet.  WebDAV is typically a good solution, but we found it unstable when used with the MyBook Live.  We settled on two techniques that we use in different situations.  The first technique is SSHFS and Samba - SSHFS for the internet portion and Samba for the LAN portion.  This works relatively well with only a moderate performance decrease.

This article describes our technique for setting up SSHFS and Samba on a Western Digital My Book Live NAS device.

Read more...