Reprogramming the Comcast Remote

Universal Remotes

Comcast swapped out my cable box to resolve an intermittent problem that has been occurring the past few weeks.  They gave us a Cisco/Scientific Atlanta box.  The universal remote that came with the cable box was platinum colored. The universal remotes that came with the old box were silver colored.

I wanted the old remote to work with the new box so I have a fair chance of finding a remote in the house when I wanted to watch the TV.  It was easy to find instructions to program the remote to work with the TV and Stereo.  It was a bit more difficult to find out how to change the cable box.  The key was to unlock the remote.  After the remote was unlocked it was just a matter of finding the right 5-digit code.

I also wanted to change the default mode for volume control.  The remote uses the TV for the default volume control.  To change it I had to first perform a global volume unlock and then lock the default volume control to the right device.  In this case I wanted my stereo that was programmed under the Aux button to control the volume.

I’ve documented the steps and codes below to hopefully help someone else with a similar issue as well as document the steps for my future use.

 

To unlock / lock the remote:

  1. Press cable button
  2. Hold the Setup button until the cable button blinks twice
  3. Press 982
  4. The cable button will blink 4 times if unlocked.
  5. The cable button will blink 2 times if the remote locked.

 

To Program the Silver Remote to work with Cisco RNG cable Box:

  1. After unlocking the remote
  2. Press the cable button
  3. Hold the setup button until it blinks twice
  4. Enter a 5 digit code
  5. cable button will blink twice if the code is valid
  6. cable button will blink one long blink if the code is not valid
  7. Press the power button to test the code entered

 

Codes for the Silver Remote & Cisco RNG Cable Box:

  • 01877
  • 00877
  • 00477
  • 00008
  • 00237
  • 01982  <- This one worked for me

 

 Global Volume Unlock

  1. Hold Setup until the mode light blinks twice
  2. Press 993
  3. Press Vol+
  4. The mode light will blink 4 times confirming unlock

 

Restoring Global Volume Lock

  1. Press the mode that you want the global volume lock enabled on
  2. Hold the setup button until the mode light blinks twice
  3. Press 993
  4. Press the mode key
  5. The mode key will blink twice confirming global lock enabled

Rebuilt the Stairs

On Good Friday I decided to start the rebuilding of the stairs in the house.  The old stairs were made of popular / pine and were stained black.  When we moved into the house, I had the carpet guys just cover them when the carpet was being installed in the family room.  I knew I was going to rebuild the stairs at some point.  After 17 years in the house, the time had come to tackle the project.  We wanted to tear up the carpet in the family room and put down a hardwood floor.  In doing that, The stairs really needed to be replaced first, so the new hardwood floor could be set up against them.

The photo above is  taken from the garage looking into the family room.  For two weeks Cathy kept referencing the hole that I put into the house.  Usually with these projects I take more photos, but for whatever reason with this project I didn’t.  I tried to find a photo of the old stairs so I could show everyone how ugly there were, but alas no such photo exists.

I made the new stairs from solid red oak.  The stringers, risers, treads and all the wedges are made from red oak.  After doing some research on the best method to build them, I decided to route the stringers so the treads and risers are recessed into the stringers.  I spent the better part of a day creating my templates for routing the stringers.  Here is a photo of one of the oak stringers.  I had just routed only the treads in the board.  Right next to the oak stringer I have my pine practice board.

It took me two days to route out both stringers!  I ended up destroying 5 router bits in the process.  I also ended up destroying a stringer and had to spend $100 to fix my mistake.  With the wrecked stringer, as I laid out the treads, I mistakenly allowed a 1/16″ of an inch error to creep into the layout for each tread.  By the time I had the 14 treads routed, I was off a full inch at the bottom.  Each stringer is 5/4″ thick by 10″ wide and 16 feet long.  The treads are also 5/4″ thick.  The risers are 3/4″ thick.

With the stringers routed out, the treads and risers are held tightly in by a wood wedge.  The wood wedges account for the slight variations in wood thickness.  Even though all the treads are 5/4″ thick, by the time they are planed and sanded, there can be 1/32″ difference in the thickness of the treads.  That difference would allow a gap to occur and cause the stairs to squeak.  The preferred method uses the wedges to tighten the treads and risers and allow no gaps to occur.

Overall I spent 8 days building the new stairs.  That includes fixing & painting the sheetrock and putting on 3 coats of urethane.

The new stairs are so much more solid than the old ones.  Plus they look great.

Now I have to lay the hardwood floor in the family room.

Now We’re Talking Squid!!

Victory is mine!!!

I’ve been running the Squid proxy server in the house for the past two+ years. In our house if you want to get to the Internet, you have to point your browser to the Squid proxy. Otherwise, no dice on the Internet access. I set this up so that I could keep a liberal policy on computer usage in our house while at the same time keeping an eye on the kids. On top of Squid I’ve been using MySAR for the reporting and it has been doing a very nice job, although the MySAR interface is getting old.

For the Blog, I had the router forward all the port 80 inbound web traffic to the web server. As long as I could run everything off a common Apache server, this setup worked just fine. For this blog I’ve been running  WordPress. I’ve been very happy with WordPress so far.

Lately I’ve been help my good friend, Dave, with some web site work. Eventually the websites will be hosted at a still undetermined hosting provider. But for now I needed to bring them up on my home server. At first I just needed to resolve the domains to the single Apache server. No problem. The home network can easily handle this.

Then things got a little more complicated, I also needed to bring up a wiki. For the wiki I wanted to stay with Confluence. I like the Confluence wiki. Its easy to setup and maintain. Even in large installations it is quick and runs on minimal hardware.

We wanted to have the primary domain, www.agsaurora.com resolve to the Apache web server. But we wanted wiki.agsaurora.com to resolve to the Confluence server. Home routers, while they provide a lot of functionality that 98% of the people don’t even know exists, they can’t perform layer 7 content switching. Initially to get the wiki up and running I had the home router forward port 8080 to the server running Confluence. If you typed www or wiki.agsaurora.com:8080, it would redirect to the wiki. Problem with that is the URL’s are ugly. Who wants to see “:8080” in the URL. Second issue was that any sub-domain under “*.agsaurora.com:8080” would resolve to the wiki. Not clean and not elegant.

I looked on ebay for something that could provide the functionality that I needed, but the hardware was way to expensive. So I started to look for an Open Source software solution. The load balancing software solutions were complicated to setup and maintain. I was looking for a simple solution. Then I rediscovered Squid! The reverse proxy acceleration was exactly what we were looking for. All the traffic would be forwarded to the Squid server and I had to only open the single port 80 to the Internet. Squid would then proxy the requests to the correct backend server:port. This setup gave me an added bonus! It gave me positive control over the sub-domains and where they landed. It was relatively easy to get wiki.agsaurora.com to resolve to the Confluence server on port 8080 and all the other web traffic, like www.agsaurora.com or download.agsaurora.com, to resolve on the Apache web server on port 80.

Here is the snipet of the Squid Config that performs the magic:

# Squid normally listens to port 3128
http_port 80 accel vhost

acl myhost dstdomain .petersens.ws
acl myhost dstdomain .agsaurora.net .agsaurora.com
acl mywiki dstdomain wiki.agsaurora.net wiki.agsaurora.com

#setup cache peers for accelration
cache_peer 10.10.1.4 parent 80 0 no-query originserver name=xenweb login=PROXYPASS
cache_peer 10.10.1.5 parent 8080 0 no-query originserver name=xenshare

cache_peer_access xenweb deny mywiki
cache_peer_access xenweb allow myhost
cache_peer_access xenshare allow mywiki
always_direct deny myhost
always_direct deny mywiki

Eleven lines of configuration. It took the better part of three hours to get this config just right so that I can still use the Squid proxy to capture all the Internet bound traffic while at the same time perform the reverse proxy acceleration. The cache_peer and cache_peer_access lines setup the reverse proxy. The two last lines, always_direct, allows all the internally generated traffic to pass through the proxy to the outside world. I double checked the MySAR application after setting everything up and it was still processing all the logs just fine! So I can still monitor what the kids are up to on the Internet!!! VICTORY!!!

AntiVirus Software

Anti-virus Software is universally accepted today as a necessity.  Anyone using a PC without an Anti-virus software package is thought to be foolish or reckless.  Most people are very good about installing Anti-virus software when hey first purchase a new PC.  The majority of people allow their annual subscription to run out after a year, so they no longer receive updates.  Having Anti-virus software that is out of dat is just as bad as not running with Anti-virus software.

If you’re like me and you have several machines in the house, the $40 to $60 subscription fee per machine can add up to be a significant yearly expense.  With the kids in the house, I can’t even think about running the risk of not having Anti-virus software.

Well, there is a very nice solution to my problem – AVG.  For the home PC’s AVG has a free version of Anti-virus software that is on par with Norton and McAfee.  Under the free version licensing, each owner can have a single copy installed for personal use.  Since MJ and Jill each has their own laptop that is strictly for their own use, I can have a copy on each of their PC’s.

If you’re tired of paying annual subscriptions, or if you have allowed your subscription to run out, I would encourage you to check out Free AVG version.

The Home Network

Lately I’ve been on a kick upgrading the computers in the house.  Most of the machines are dual Xeons with 4Gb or 8Gb of ram.  I just added a 1.5Tb drive to one machine that was running out of space.  It had a 40gb drive in it and it was full.  I went through looking to dump what ever I could, but it only amounted to a few Gb free.

I also had to add a 8-port switch.  I have a 16-port switch downstairs where I have the server gear, but I need more ports in the den.  I’m wondering if it was a good idea to go with the 8-port switch and not the 16-port switch.  At the time the store I was in only had the 8-port switch and I didn’t feel like driving around.

The one purchase that I made that has just proven itself to be so valuable was a D-Link print server.  It can handle up to 4 printers.  I know, it was a simply thing to add, but what a difference to be able to print from anywhere.  I’ve got the laser printer and the Epson photo printer attach to it.  The only bummer is that I have to go into the den to turn the printers on if I want to print.  A lot of the times I’m in the family room with the laptop and have to walk to the other end of the house. Yes, on occasion I get lazy and yell for one of the kids to turn on the printer or retrieve the printouts for me.

The one box that I haven’t upgrade is the Apple G4.  I did add some ram to bump it to 4Gb.  That box has found some new life with my daughter.  She likes to play her games on it.  She likes the idea of having a machine that is basically only used by her.

That leads me to another thought.  I am amazed at the kids.  I have XP, Vista, Mac OS X and Fedora Linux in the house on various machines.  Majority of the boxes run Linux, from Fedora Core 5 to Fedora 10.  But it doesn’t matter to them.  They jump from box to box without thinking about the operating system.  Most adults I know have issues running a single operating system.  Not them.  Its seamless to them.  I cant help but wonder what the technology will be like when they are adults and start having difficulty adopting to it.

Fireplace

One of the gifts we got for the house this Christmas was gas logs for the fireplace. We had been burning the artificial logs to be able to have a fire and keep the mess to a minimum. The artificial logs were not even close in comparison to a real wood fire, both in the heat given and the look of the fire. I didn’t like burning wood because of the mess. There would be wood splinters from bringing the wood into the house and building the fire. There was also the mess of ashes the day after.

The logs provide a much more realistic fire. The size and color of the flame is good. The amount of heat that is generated is really nice. The logs are rated to generate 34,000BTU’s. That is roughly 1/2 the size of the furnace for the whole house. And to top it off, there is no mess and no fuss. When we want to start the fire, just grab the remote and press on. The setup I choose included 7 logs. I liked the 7 log setup over the 5 log placement. The 7 logs placement had 2 additional logs stacked across the top at an angle. To me this setup provides a much more realistic looking stack of logs. The logs generate so much heat that the stone work surrounding the fireplace absorbs the energy. For a few hours after turning the fireplace off, the stone work continues to throw off heat into the room.

Installing the fireplace took about 8 hours from start to finish. The hardest part of the job was to drill a 1″ hole through the side of the fireplace to run the gas pipe through. Using a hammer drill it took about 3 hours. At one point the bit grabbed the brick and spun the drill. The 1″ drill bit was bent out of shape when the bit grabbed. I had to use a 2lb hammer to coax the bit back into a straight shape. Running the pipe was time consuming, but it was physically and mentally easy. The pre cut sections of black gas pipe from Home Depot really makes the job easy.

The one unexpected task was that I had to relocate the thermostat for the forced hot-air furnace. The thermostat was in the family room with the fireplace. When we had the fireplace turned on, the family room temperature quickly rose to about 77 degrees. This caused the rest of the house to not have heat. I had to run a new thermostat wire to the other end of the hallway down by the bedrooms and remount the thermostat. Since relocating it we haven’t had an issue with the heat being balanced.

Training Wheels – No More…

Well, Jill has finally got the hang of riding her bike.

This past Wednesday, Jill talked MJ into removing the training wheels on her bike. It is nice that MJ knows how to do some of the mechanical tasks now. The kids aren’t totally dependent waiting for me to come home from work.

She was able to ride for short distances. Then she got tired and put the training wheels back on. Thursday the training wheels came off for good. By Friday she had no issues starting or stopping the bicycle. Jill even rode over the grass.

With Labor Day weekend upon us, Sandy Hook will soon start their off season rates at the park. If the weather is good next Saturday, I’m sure we’ll be heading over there with all of our bicycles!

Wii

The Petersen household has the Wii. If your like me, playing video consoles was about 15 years in the past back when the Sega Genesis was the leading edge. I have to tell you the Wii level sets the playing field for everyone. In our house my son is very good with the video games and it can be a challenge to play against him. The full motion action that is required to play really resets the playing field so the novice gamer has a chance to compete.

I want to have the Wii installed in the basement. However I have to finish painting the basement and I have to build a set of shelves to hold the games. So for the short term I put the Wii on the TV in the family room. Playing the Wii on a 52″ TV is an experience in of itself.

The first game we played was bowling. All four of us played. What a trip to be swinging your arm to get speed on the ball. The second game was”Dance Dance Revolution”. This game has a floor mat and you have to dance to songs. You’re rated on your timing and accuracy of your steps. Watching each family member take thier turn only to have the Wii tell us we failed at dancing. It was hysterically. By the fourth or fifth attemptwe were able to be rated a “D” or “C” on the beginner level. If you want a good workout, I would recommend “Dance Dance Revolution”. After each game you could feel the tiredness in your legs and your breathing increase. We tried one game at expert level. It was a cruel joke to even attempt it. I would love to see someone play the expert level and be rated decently.

I’ve heard that a few people have been injured in playing the Wii. After playing it for a few hours, I can honestly see where bodily injury could occur.

New Furnance for the House

The old furnace finally gave out. I took it apart to find out the glow-bar starter had cracked. I replaced that to find out that the furnace would keep short cycling and not come up to temperature. Probing around with the multi-meter didn’t reveal the faulty sensor. The old furnace is a 23 year old Coleman and at it’s best it was 80% efficient.

We had a HVAC contractor install a high-efficiency two-stage forced hot air furnace with a 14 SEER AC unit. The furnace is rated at 92.4% efficient. I’m still amazed that the exhaust vent is a PVC pipe. The unit is so efficient that the exhaust gases are cold.

Of course we installed the unit after the winter is over. So we’ll be anxiously waiting for winter to see what the savings will be!

On another note this is the first major project in the house where I didn’t do the work! After 12 years in the house, I finally hired a contractor to come in and do the installation. I have to say it was well worth it! They were in and out in one day. That included installing a stainless steel sleeve in the existing chimney to vent out the hot water heater exhaust. With not having the furnace vent into the chimney, the hot water heater alone does not have enough hot exhaust to make sure the acidic exhaust gases flow out the top of the chimney. The sleeve makes sure that the masonry work in the chimney does not erode.