I Canceled AT&T DirecTV

So I decided to cancel DirecTV after at least 15 years because the service had become a financial burden, their equipment stunk – especially the remotes – and I grew tired of having to scroll through so many shopping channels.

Cost: Channels alone was $110.48 which included a “regional sports fee.” Then the equipment with the protection plan was another $50.99. With $1.22 sales tax, my LAST bill was $162.69

UPDATE: I failed to mention how easy it was to cancel. I had read a number of horrific experiences that people had with the “retention department.” So I had a plan, I would simply say that we were canceling for religious reasons. I called the number, and the nice AT&T dude took care of the cancelation quickly, politely and never even asked why I was canceling. Less than 10 minutes in total. I dreaded that call for weeks and all for nothing.

I don’t watch much more than sports, food channels and some sci-fi shows. I vowed off the news years ago and my life is much more peaceful.

I spent the last 3 or 4 months reviewing my options from cable to streaming services and I chose YouTube TV. They have the best selection of channels and include Fox Sports AZ (and San Diego), ESPN, MLB, among others. We are huge fans of Diamondbacks baseball and FSAZ airs all of their games. WOOT! 

In Tucson, YouTube TV includes all of our local network stations. It also includes all of the major cable news channels.

All this for only $53.04.

I was a little concerned about our internet service because it tops out at 20mps – and after I get the TV upstairs hooked up, I may have to upgrade my DSL – but when I do, it will be cheaper and faster.

Sure, I had to give up a few things, and the resolution doesn’t seem as HD as before, but for +$1,200.00 per year in savings… I think I’ll live.

Friday the 13th Full Moon post

It’s Friday the 13th and there will be a full moon!

Full Moon
Yeah, I took that!

I do find myself very thoughtful and somewhat eager to start a new adventure. Is it the moon? Is it my age? Is it something or just in my mind?? I don’t know, but something is stirring in me to make some changes and accept some challenges!

I will be changing the layout of this blog… actually, I am going to rebrand it all together next week. It will be more about me – of course – but will also be about my life companion of 3 + decades!! It will be called Carrie & David. I haven’t registered the domain name yet but this domain will be redirected there anyway.

So that’s about it for this blog. The new site will include travel, life, photos, videos, and what it’s like when two lifelong best friends grow old together whilst still enjoying life, new adventures, and new experiences together.

Yes, there will be a separate one where I will share our culinary journey too. www.GringoDaveCooks.com

VRBO San Diego : Baywatch Bungalow

Our first trip in many years takes us to San Diego and nice little studio Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO). We love VRBO’s because they usually come with a kitchen and they are much less fussy than a resort or hotel. We love to get out and see things, but we also like to relax, cook for ourselves and enjoy the privacy (intimacy) of our own little home away from home.

The Baywatch Bungalow was great. Even though it is a studio, it’s very spacious. The owners are very accommodating and the place is well equipped. The location is amazing! Right in the middle of everything but still in a nice quiet neighborhood. The price is right for this little gem. https://www.vrbo.com/1188423

WordPress user, admin, and host

Since it appears that I am becoming a WordPress user, admin, and host, I am trying to establish a workflow for starting a new WordPress site on my servers. There are features/plugins that all sites should have.

They are

A Theme
Whether it be free or paid for, all WordPress sites require a theme to present the content. For this site (more personal than anything), I have chosen a paid-for theme called “ContentBerg” which utilizes the Guttenberg features. It has many of the tools cooked into the theme so I don’t have to add those features individually. There is a bit of a learning curve to each theme, it just takes time and practice to get to know the ins and outs of each theme.

All web publishers want to know how famous they are. A good web publisher wants to know a lot more such as where traffic is coming from, what pages are most/least popular, and even demographics, user platforms and more. I will be utilizing the tried and true Google Analytics for my sites.

All (okay most) web publishers would like to be famous, but everyone I know, want to make money from their efforts. With a starting blog like this one, the easiest way to generate revenue is to use an existing Google Adsense account. As the site grows, I can add affiliate links and direct-sold ads, but for now, especially for this site, I am not anticipating a large amount of traffic and so… not much revenue.

Back up and recovery plan
In the past (since 1995), I have always published locally and then transferred the articles and files manually to the online server. This has been my way of protecting myself from hackers (yes, I’ve had sites hacked through shared hosting issues) and also from the sudden disappearance of a hosting company (yes, I’ve had that happen twice over the last 20+ years).

With WordPress websites, there is the added complexity of the relational database which is near impossible to host locally and mirror live. I’m sure there are ways to do this but it is not my intent to create a handshake schema between local and live content. I will copy all files to a backup location and will back up the database at set intervals just in case of the worst.

I have yet to develop and establish my disaster protection and recovery plan for WordPress websites, but suffice to say that the files and database/s will be stored locally on a schedule and a written recovery checklist will be printed.

(Future link to disaster protection and recovery plan for WordPress websites here.)

More to come… I have to get the August issue finished now.

FranTech Section

I have added a section of my personal blog called “FranTech.” It’s basically my name, Francis and the word technical. It also has a playful connotation as frantic which is how I develop websites, magazines, videos, etc., so it’s appropriate.

The idea is to have a section devoted to techno-babble related posts and videos that may be of use to people interested in that sort of stuff. I will likely have subcategories to this section such as video editing, HTML, CSS, website hosting and much much more.

ColorMag “free” WordPress Theme a NO GO

ColorMag free theme by ThemeGrill screen shot

I’ve spent a few hours today (Sunday, May 26, 2019) installing and configuring the free ColorMag WordPress theme only to discover that I cannot add a top banner AdSense block to monetize the site.

I liked everything I saw about the theme, especially the categories since I hope to diversify this site in many ways. But my brief experience with the theme reveals that any effort to place advertisements is not possible, at least not without editing the files directly. Editing files is problematic because if (when) there is an update to the theme, any manual modifications are overwritten by the update. I’ve already experienced that with the default.

Oh well… live and learn! It’s possible that many of the free themes available will limit my ability to monetize, which I guess makes sense.

HP Computer: Windows 10 Won’t Boot

Image by Rusty Gouveia from Pixabay

The morning after Cinco de Mayo in Tucson Arizona can be haunted by a hangover due to the excessive revelry the day before, but this Seis de Mayo had its own kind of headache.

“Honey, my computer won’t turn on.”

Oh boy!

Okay – the symptom on our 6-month-old HP, Windows 10 Pro computer is, we get the HP logo and spinning guy, then nothing. I tried safe mode (F8), nothing. I checked the BIOS (F10) – seemed to be fine. I even unplugged the USB printer, nothing.

What the heck? Review; the computer is working properly, but once it tried to access the hard drive where Windows resides, it fails. Bummer!

So I began to download a Windows boot disk onto and USB thumb drive so I could bypass the hard drive and attempt to resuscitate this computer from another source. While it was downloading and configuring, (4+ gigabytes of system data), I decided to “wiggle the wires.”

Wiggle the wires? With the computer turned off, I removed the side panel of the CPU case and simply wiggled the wire bundle where it attaches to the hard drive, and where it attaches to the motherboard, turned it on and everything was hunky-dory.

I know this is a short solution to what felt like a big problem, but sometimes you just have to consider the potential for mechanical/electrical failure. Like hitting the top of a TV to fix reception in the old days, a little wiggle-wiggle-wiggle of the wires did the trick.

This did bring up an important flaw in our IT management. We both upgraded our computers this past year. We have been running both our originals side by side (with remote desktop) to help the migration process, but I never set up a recovery plan. Sure, I have a data backup plan in place, but not a whole system recovery plan. That’s about to change.

This week, whilst I finish up on a few videos, create three new websites, start my exercise program and film some new videos, I will also be updating our information systems recovery and backup policy and procedure. (ISRABPP?) Now, where did I put those 5 extra hours per day, and 3 extra days of the week?

This is a good place to mention the creation of a new section of our personal blog/channel. I will call it “FranTech,” and it will be a place I share my experience relating to technology of all sorts. From simple computer problems to setting up entire websites, home networks, and even hard learned software tips, tricks, and techniques, I will share what I can, as often as I can.

So be on the lookout for what could be considered, boring, but useful to some, postings.

Video ¿Hobby?

For the past year or so, I have been studying video production. I guess I have always had an interest in video, but never really nurtured the desire. I made a wedding video for some dear friends years ago, as well as some fun videos using Microsoft Windows Movie Maker (c2000).

As a magazine publisher, web developer and all ’round creative guy, I have the Adobe Creative Cloud software subscription which includes many creative programs for one low monthly price. I already use PhotoShop, InDesign, Bridge, and Illustrator on a regular basis, but this creative cloud comes with high powered video production software, PremierePro, professional audio software, Audition, and even a great motion graphics program called AfterEffects. The learning curve has been steep — to say the least — but with a little help from YouTube and a lot of practice, I’ve been able to create a few ‘fair’ videos.

From “hobby” to “passion” to “professional.”

Since I’m still a magazine publisher — albeit digital now — I’ve decided to make videos for the magazine. It will help the publication as well as allow me to nurture my videographer skillset. From virtual reality 360° videos and short videos about local area attractions, I will be able to produce content that will attract readers, sponsors, and revenue. I will also be producing regular cooking videos on another channel as well. I’m excited — but this little hobby of mine ain’t cheap.

I’ll get into the equipment and software I use someday, but as a budding video creator, I’ve made the intentional decision to keep things as affordable as possible. I did upgrade my PC, it was time, which was significant. I found that gaming PC’s have the processor speeds as well as the video cards to support editing, rendering and publishing motion video. Of course, I have my eyes on new and bigger computers (>$10,000), but for now, I have what I need.

ALSO… besides the computer, I need camera/s. I’ve invested in a great GoPro Fusion for the 360° camera and also a new Canon PowerShot, but I’ve decided to use my cell phone (with a gimbal) instead of investing in a great DSLR — for now.

Since I needed the computer for the magazine website, I don’t count that as part of my video hobby expenditure. I have purchased a sound recorder, an action camera (cheap GoPro), the 360° GoPro (ouch), the PowerShot, a gimbal, some accessories and that will do me for now. I have decided not to invest any more significant money* until I publish several quality videos and know this is something that can hold my attention.

*Significant money = $5,000 per camera X 3 studio cameras, plus professional lighting, sound, mixing, computing, storage etc. Budget, $30,000 to $130,000.

Even as I write this, I am rendering dozens of 360° videos (63) from the first day of filming at the Sonoran Desert Museum, as well as 83 photos and 26 1080p videos. That project will include a 360 video as well as a HD video about one of Tucson’s most popular attractions. We are scheduled to return tomorrow to finish up a few more locations as well as a few hours of “b-roll” (filler video) and sound capture work.

I’m not sure where I will be journalling my video making exploits, but I plan to do it somewhere… if I do, I’ll post a link here.