Sunday, March 18, 2018

Chromebook "Set up virtual private networks (VPNs)": yeah, right!

You can use some types of VPNs on your Chromebook without installing any software. For other types, you can install VPN apps ...

Your Chromebook has built-in support for these VPNs:
  • L2TP over IPsec with PSK
  • L2TP over IPsec with certificate-based authentication
  • OpenVPN
Note: I recently dumped OpenVPN at because it couldn't support my Chromebook.

There's way more junk in the article. Read it for yourself.

Was this article helpful? No!

My comment:

Are you kidding. Build the damn VPN into your OS. Who the heck knows what you're talking about? Chromebooks are supposed to be simple. Google should protect us without expecting us to follow esoteric instructions like monkeys.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Lionel FasTrack O-31 do NOT fit into each other.

date:Sat, Mar 3, 2018 at 8:52 AM
subject:Re: Your order no. 987-123456789 has been received

... I had ordered O-31 curve FasTrack from Legacy Station in Georgia. At least half of the connections do not properly snap together. I've been using your O-36 FasTrack for about ten years so I know how to connect them. These O-31 FasTrack are so deficient as to be unusable. When I push hard to force a connection, a nearby connection loosens, even separates completely. It's ridiculous. I might cancel this loco order because of it.

I also learned the hard way that O-31 curve does not fit inside O-36. I then checked the Lionel catalog and noticed that O-31 is NOT shown fitting as the other sizes do. However, Lionel should make that VERY CLEAR in WRITING.

Online messages confirm this and also state that MTH O-31 does fit inside Lionel O-36. I may switch to MTH Realtrax ... and maybe more.

Oh, please confirm that those two GP7 locos are "w/Bluetooth" same as the GP38. Thanks. The details for GP7 mention Bluetooth but the product headline does not as it does for GP38. Confusing and possibly disconcerting.

Call me.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Lionel toy and model trains have simple functional remote control. Best option: LionChief Plus with Bluetooth.

This guy makes the case pretty well:

It's a good introduction to modern technology in toy trains.

You can slide past his detailed description of this particular locomotive to the functional stuff about remote control. I've been researching the current options, including those from:
- MTH: Uses WiFi through a router from loco to its app on phone or tablet.
- Bachmann: Uses a simpler Bluetooth connection from loco to app on phone or tablet.
- BlueRail: Makes the circuit boards and software used by Bachmann in its HO locos; BlueRail products can also be purchased separately.

I was all set to get MTH stuff but trying to decipher MTH options and product lines and way too much confusing extra hardware delayed my decision. Then I thought Bachmann was the way to go; no WiFi, just Bluetooth and no extra hardware. Now I prefer what Lionel has done:

- Very simple physical remote control (forward/reverse, sounds, including announcements), I think first introduced in kids sets for TOY trains as distinguished from MODEL trains:
        - Thomas
        - Polar Express
- LionChief
- LionChief Plus with Bluetooth connection from loco to app on phone or tablet. But Bluetooth is only in some newer locos. So far, not easy to determine which.

Note: Some of the kids sets have battery powered locomotives with a simpler but functionally same remote control. They retail for about $100 and run on plastic tracks. They are G scale (large). This is a very good value. The main negative is that the loco is powered by six C batteries. I don't know how practical it is but functionally it would have been preferable to have something like a rechargeable lithium ion battery, the type that we use in phones and tablets.

Be careful of older LionChief locos, introduced around 2015. Later Lionel came out with LionChief Plus. All LionChief and LionChief Plus locos have the physical remote that is nicely paired to its loco using radio frequency, NOT Bluetooth. However, only some newer LionChief Plus locos also have the Bluetooth connection to the app, which among other things can control the volume of the sounds; LionChief Plus locos can also have their volume controlled via the remote. The plain LionChief locos have their volume set to VERY LOUD and the volume cannot be reduced no matter what some Lionel documentation states. The only option is to turn the loco upside down and flip the sound on/off switch. But even that only eliminates the sound of the announcements and, I think, idling (cannot recall). The buttons for bell and whistle still work and are VERY LOUD.

I now think the way to go is LionChief Plus with Bluetooth. It's got BOTH a physical remote AND access to the more functional app. Except for MTH, I don't see that the others have a decent remote and MTH, I think, outsmarted itself and awoke Lionel, which made a big comeback. A few years ago the Lionel CEO was essentially removed:

Lionel CEO left April 16! Howard Hitchcock is the new president. TUESDAY, MAY 13, 2014

Dealers had been ignorant about this tech evolution in the last five years and I've only just caught on in 2018. I had been ignoring the clumsy alphabet soup mess that the industry had been engulfed in trying to satisfy too many old guys who wanted anything new to also work with their old stuff ... if at all.

Note: Most, if not all, apps were initially written for Apple products. My guess is that the decision makers were not too computer techie and defaulted to Apple iPads and iPhones. Later some added app versions that ran on devices running the Android operating system.

But even now the Lionel Layout Control System (LCS) app is still only Apple; no Android version in sight.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Altice One set top box turns itself off regularly.

All through the day and certainly overnight. If I use the remote control to turn on the TV, I see this on a blank screen (ignore reflection, the screen is blank):

If there is an "INPUT button" I have no idea where it is; I checked remote and box.

My Altice service started 1/15/18 after moving and switching from Verizon FIOS. Altice is the parent company of Cablevision Optimum.

Altice is probably still learning how its new boxes operate in the real world but I had a tech person out here a couple of days after my service started to address this problem and nothing was actually done and there has been no follow up and the problem persists.

What the heck?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Altice One box: more problems.

My previous post on Altice described an initial problem. My service started Jan. 15, 2018.

Altice set top boxes "turn off", i.e., the red power light goes on. What the heck? SATURDAY, JANUARY 20, 2018

Since, more problems:
- voice recognition fails to function at all; error message on screen
- info button on lower right of remote sometimes fails
- DVR function sometimes does not function; advised to try later
- guide sometimes not available
- freezes up sometimes.

Settings: very little of substance to set.

Three button clicks to reach the guide rather than a dedicated button. No indication of a user defined button that might make the guide available much more directly. This is needed since the voice search fails often.

More info:

AlticeOne is Optimum and Suddenlink's New All-In-1 Box. It combines your Modem, Router and Cable Box into a central hub. With Every Minibox added in addition to the Main Box, they are your typical cable box but with WiFi Extender built-in. The Mini Box are Essentially Creating a Wireless Mesh System, To Help Eliminate WiFi Dead Zones You May Have In Your Residence.

Manufacturer: Sagemcom

AlticeOne is Mostly Geared Towards Those Who Don't Know A lot About Networking As Its Still A Web Managed Router From Optimum With Limited Firmware Options.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Altice set top boxes "turn off", i.e., the red power light goes on. What the heck?

I sent the email message below to the Altice person I found at:

If I don't get a reply, maybe I'll try:

Management Structure of Altice Europe and Altice USA

Altice Europe and Altice USA will be managed by two distinct management teams, focused solely on the performance in their respective markets. Both management teams will benefit from the strategic leadership of founder and controlling shareholder Patrick Drahi, who will serve as President of the Board of Altice Europe and Chairman of the Board of Altice USA. Armando Pereira will serve as COO of Altice Europe and serve as strategic advisor to Altice USA for all operations.

Dennis Okhuijsen will serve as CEO and a Director of Altice Europe with all corporate functions and country managers reporting into him. He will report to Patrick Drahi.

Dexter Goei will continue to serve as CEO and a Director of Altice USA. He will report to Patrick Drahi.

Do you think would work?

Or maybe

from: Ken
date: Sat, Jan 20, 2018 at 8:54 AM
subject: Altice techie issue.


Sorry to bother you but there's nothing on the Cablevision (Optimum) website about the new Altice boxes I got 1/17/18 when I moved and switched from Verizon FIOS to Altice.

It's slow and tedious to reach tech support for Altice. Customers must go through the usual call prompting labyrinth to finally reach Altice support people.

Each night well after midnight both my Altice set top boxes "turn off", i.e., the red power light goes on. I learned from one of your Altice techie people that I needed to push that red button to make the red light go off. Then when I used the Altice remote control to start my TV it works OK instead of showing either a blank screen or a message that there is no signal, depending on which of the two Altice boxes is being used.

Unfortunately, the Altice techie person did not know why this was happening.

​Altice needs to improve on this in obvious ways. Thanks.​

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Altice: it ain't your father's Cablevision (Optimum).

First impression in an Altice survey after one day of service after switching from Verizon FIOS:

Altice. Otherwise, it's just dumb old Cablevision (Optimum). The new boxes, etc. make it worth trying. I switched from Verizon FIOS. Altice remotes are Bluetooth paired with individual set top boxes. Duh. Finally. I have two TVs and two boxes in the same room and until Altice a remote would change stuff on both boxes, like change the channel. This was true for Cablevision and is still true for Verizon FIOS.

Unfortunately, it's still got dumb fast forward (FF): no 10/30 second skip like Verizon FIOS.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Avalon rent: renewal 41% higher than new tenant - new high.

That's a new high in this one example. Apparently, the business model is to hook new tenants with outrageous rents, then increase the rent every ten months until the tenants leave. It seems counter intuitive but it probably makes money or Avalon would't do it. Here's the box score:

from 722from 722from 1122from 1122
unit12/15/2017dif% difdif% dif
rent 4/2017 - 2/20181122$4,021$91129.29%
for rent722$3,110

Read the previous post about Avalon for context:

Avalon rents can vary by more than 28 percent in the same apartment line in the same building. Renewal: 39% higher! SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2017

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Samsung sent its return shipping label but will still charge 15% restocking.

I called again and again almost fell into a hole but lucked out with someone who got permission from his supervisor to send the label directly to my gmail ID, instead of to the one with my domain, the same domain email ID to which Samsung had been sending all its other messages.

Oh, before I made that call, I sent a message to this guy:

Tim Baxter

President and CEO 
Samsung Electronics North America

Tech Thoughts: Samsung "support" messages: a trail of incompetence.
date:Sat, Nov 25, 2017 at 9:13 AM
subject:Tech Thoughts: Samsung "support" messages: a trail of incompetence.


No reply.

Samsung "support" messages: a trail of incompetence.

Samsung Chromebook Pro: see the two previous posts about attempts to return this. Samsung internal systems are so messed up that Samsung is incapable of sending a return shipping label. I just logged into my Samsung account and ...


Looks like we don't have your address on file
Samsung just sent its product to me a few days ago. How could it have lost my home address?

Let's take trip down Samsung lane:

Kenneth, welcome to Samsung
date:Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 10:07 AM
subject:Kenneth, welcome to Samsung
security: Standard encryption


Samsung - Order Receipt #DAA........... 
date:Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 10:12 AM
subject:Samsung - Order Receipt #DAAZXO1G3
security: Standard encryption

Samsung - Order Confirmation #DAA....... 
date:Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 8:00 PM
subject:Samsung - Order Confirmation #DAA......
security: Standard encryption


[Samsung E-Commerce] Re: Order status -- Order date - 17th November
reply-to:Samsung Direct
date:Sun, Nov 19, 2017 at 3:17 PM
subject:[Samsung E-Commerce] Re: Order status -- Order date - 17th November
security: Standard encryption
Sai Anvesh Pipper (Samsung E-Commerce)
Nov 19, 15:17 EST
Hello Kenneth,

Samsung - Order Shipped #DAA....... 
date:Mon, Nov 20, 2017 at 8:34 AM
subject:Samsung - Order Shipped #DAA......
security: Standard encryption

Samsung - Order Delivered #DAA...... 
date:Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 1:22 PM
subject:Samsung - Order Delivered #DAA........
security: Standard encryption

date:Fri, Nov 24, 2017 at 10:27 AM
subject:Re: Samsung - Order Delivered #DAA

I'd like to return. When I finally figured out how to get around your router connection anomaly and started using, I found that the criticisms of your keyboard were not severe enough. Your keyboard really sucks.

from:Mail Delivery Subsystem mailer-daemon
date:Fri, Nov 24, 2017 at 10:28 AM
subject:Delivery Status Notification (Failure)

Address not found

Your message wasn't delivered to because the address couldn't be found, or is unable to receive mail.

from:Samsung Customer Support
date:Fri, Nov 24, 2017 at 1:49 PM
security: Standard encryption
Customer reference number: nnnnnnnnnnnn
Please quote your customer reference number when contacting Samsung 
Email response ID: nnnnnnnnnnnn

Dear Kenneth Matinale,

Thank you for contacting Samsung. We've received both your emails...

Please note that you may be charged a 15% Restocking Fee for non-defective returned items...

Thank you for being a Samsung Customer! 
Samsung Online Support 

Kind regards, 

Aravind B 
Email Support 
SAMSUNG Customer Support Center 

Please do not reply back to this email message as this email address is used for 
outbound messages only.

Friday, November 2, 2017, 3:32 PM
2 mins, 14 sec

Totally fruitless and aggravating phone conversation with the sales group that the next email wants me to talk to again. The sales person insisted that they had sent the return shipping label. I checked everywhere, including SPAM. No email from Samsung with any attachment.

Samsung could not confirm that the message had been sent or by which organization. I was told the matter was being referred to ... some organizational black hole. I tried calling again last night but Samsung was closed. I'll try again after posting this.

from:Samsung Customer Support
date:Fri, Nov 24, 2017 at 7:52 PM
security: Standard encryption
Dear Kenneth Matinale, 

Thank you for writing back to us. I do understand your concern. 

If only I had the option to work on this, I would have surely assisted you; however, the support channel that you have contacted is dedicated to handle technical and service related issues with Samsung devices and do not have access to the information on Sales and return labels. 

For any further information related to return label and change of email address, please contact our sales support team. Our Sales Department will be able to help you with the further information. You may contact them at 855-726-8721952-908-4074; Sun-Sat, 9am – 9pm EST, or at 

Thank you for being a Samsung Customer! 
Samsung Online Support 

Kind regards, 

Abhishek G 
Email Support 
SAMSUNG Customer Support Center


Samsung systems suck: multiple failed attempts to return its Chromebook Pro.

See previous post:

Returning Samsung Chromebook Pro: keyboard really sucks. REALLY sucks. FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2017 10:47AM

Not only does Samsung have an embarrassingly bad keyboard in its expensive ($549.99) Chromebook Pro flip laptop but:

1. Samsung will probably charge me a 15% restocking fee: $82.50.
2. Samsung has such terrible internal systems that, despite multiple email messages through its website and a 42 minute phone call, it could not send me a FedEx return label.
3. Samsung may now take five more BUSINESS days to get the FedEx return label to me.

All this allows Samsung to keep my money longer and puts me in jeopardy of not returning the Samsung product within its 15 day limit. Samsung is totally in charge of this process with its really bad systems.

Do NOT buy this Samsung product and think really hard about buying any Samsung computer product because of the Samsung 15% restocking charge and its bad procedures, policies and, worst of all, its internal computer systems.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Returning Samsung Chromebook Pro: keyboard really sucks. REALLY sucks.

Samsung Chromebook Pro $549.99

SKU ID: XE510C24-K01US but really XE500C21-H02US

Message sent to Samsung using its terrible online "email". Ridiculously convoluted and fragile. I had to constantly re-enter data.

I'd like to return. When I finally figured out how to get around your router connection anomaly and started using, I found that the criticisms of your keyboard were not severe enough. Your keyboard really sucks.

It's cramped and not conducive to writing. This results in having to many errors.

Oh, and this: couldn't get it to connect to my router. Finally after many failures and no error messages, just a blank stare, I tried using the plain router version, non 5G. That worked. So then I backed up and tried the 5G version again and it worked. What the heck?

Have to stop. My palms are aching and I have average size hands.

Monday, November 20, 2017

YouTube TV: latest example of why streaming video is NOT TV, especially for sports.

Cutting the cord is a silly phrase since a connection to the Internet is needed and 99% of us get that through a "cord". YouTube TV is a new streaming service that includes several important sports channels, which tend to be all but ignored by other streaming services. However, as a practical matter YouTube TV doesn't function much differently and it certainly is not something that can replace "cable", the other silly word in articles about cutting the cord. "Cable" is still used as a clumsy way of referring to video service, i.e., television (TV). The service provider may be a cable company but it could also be a phone company or a satellite company.

I started the YouTube TV free seven day trial a couple of days ago. I cancelled this morning, although it remains active for all seven days. But my credit card will not be charged after seven days and I can reactivate before then.

From a messages exchanged yesterday with YouTube TV support (

Even this service confirms that streaming is not TV. Basic TV functions are missing.

Switching quickly among live "channels".

Fast forward during playback: scanning. Example: skip halftime.

Where the heck is the casting icon?

Cannot even mute. Streaming starts (on tablet), I'm trying to find casting (icon) and the audio is blasting.

Apparently, if I try to go to sports channels to watch live, all I can find are non live chunks on regular YouTube, not YouTube TV.

YouTube TV basically has the same practical limits as the other streaming services: it's geared towards watching movies, not sports. Start something and only pause occasionally.

TV may suck but we're accustomed to practical functions that designers of streaming services seem to never have experienced. Don't any of them watch sports?

The casting icon is NOT always at the top of the screen. I checked in regular YouTube and it's there.

(casting to) Google ChromeCast. I got the (live) Nets game to cast. Then started a replay. FF takes it to the end. The only other option is to skip 15 seconds. Unbelievable. I'll write a critique and send you the link. Probably tomorrow.

Oh, then I removed the Nets from the library and tried to start a library show. First I had to stop the casting of the Nets game. I did. Then I had to cast again for the show; it required me to enter a PIN from the tv screen. I did. Then it searched for a nearby casting device, not using the name it just knew for the Nets game. It searched but didn't find. This has happened multiple times.

From YouTube TV support:

The fast forward issue is a very popular request to be changed, the arrow pointing forward does go to the end of the video. But by tapping multiple times you can skip multiple times which is a work around to that. I will also forward that to the product team as feedback for you. I also would like to be able to manage how far I can skip in a video.

Say what? Whoever implemented fast forward (FF) had apparently only heard about it but had not used nor spoken to any mammal who had used it. Nor had this person ever used or even heard of a VCR (video cassette recorder), which had FF in the 1970s.

And why can't FF do more than speed up with visual frames flying across the screen at multiples of normal speed: 2, 4, 8? Why can't we also be able to tell it to go forward a certain amount of time, such as 30 minutes, 45 minutes, whatever? You'd think that if any company would distinguish its streaming service with that type of common sense extra it would be Google. But Google is no better and may be worse than the unimaginative streaming companies already out there. Forget about presenting a visual smorgasbord of content, which only slows things down, and have a simple "channel" guide, maybe even with "channel" numbers so that we can quickly find or go to NBC, channel 4 in New York?

Create a physical remote control with raised keys that do not require us to stare at the screen of a tablet or phone to change channels, especially switch to "Last", or perform FF, etc. Hey, it could run Android!

For perspective:

Cablevision (Optimum) DVR fast forward is crude, lacking what Verizon provides: skip forward 30 seconds. THURSDAY, AUGUST 25, 2016

So as bad as traditional providers get, things could be worse.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Avalon rents can vary by more than 28 percent in the same apartment line in the same building. Renewal: 39% higher!

UPDATE: 12/13/2017 renewal for unit 1122 has obscene increase relative to unit 722, which is empty and for rent: 39.5% higher:

from 722from 722from 1122from 1122
unit12/13/2017dif% difdif    % dif      
renewal1122$4,386$1,24139.46%$365     9.08%       
rent 4/17 - 2/181122$4,021$87627.85%
for rent722$3,145

UPDATE: 12/7/2017 box score:
9 for rent7 for rent9 rented7 for rent

Three apartments in the same line. 14 floors in the building. The apartment on 11 has a ten month lease that started in late April 2017 at $4,021 base rent. The tenant has saved daily prices in a spreadsheet starting 10/3/2017 when the unit on floor 9 was for rent at $3,370: $651 difference, 19.32% using the lower rent as base (floor 9/floor 11). The difference peaked 11/25/2017 as shown above in the box score. It finally rented on 12/2/2017 also as shown above.

The unit on floor 7 came on the market 11/27/2017.

The description below was written 11/12/2017. The information above is an update.

Avalon is a company that rents pretty high end apartments in many locations. Its buildings are generally well constructed. The service is good and there are amenities. However, Avalon adhere's to what appears to be an industry trend that discourages tenants from living there long term.

1. Leases are almost never more than 12 months, with rents optimal at ten months.
2. Renewals always increase the rent, never decrease.
3. Avalon runs an algorithm that changes the rents for available apartments each day. That data is available on the Avalon website.

That link provides the daily rent in the Avalon apartment building in White Plains, NY. Remember, these are rents that Avalon will charge new tenants. Once the lease is signed, the tenant pays the rent each month. Policy is set at the corporate level and local offices merely carry it out with very little or no discretion.

Here is an example of how this policy can abuse existing tenants.

Lease signed in late April 2017 for a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with a terrace. It's a corner unit with lots of glass in the living room. 1,034 Square Feet. The base rent was $4,021. With modest outdoor parking at $125 plus extra mandatory junk, the monthly total is about $4,350. However, this example will compare only base rents as those are the ones listed on the Avalon website to make the rents appear lower to prospective tenants.

By October 2017 the exact same apartment only two floors lower was listed for rent at $600 less. By November 10 that difference ballooned to $726, so the existing tenant was paying 22% more. The tenant paying over $4,000 could move to the less expensive apartment but would have to pay off two months rent on the current lease. In other words, pay Avalon $8,000 in order to save $600-$700 per month depending on when it happened. Plus, endure the move and all the pain in the neck junk of changing the one's address.

That abused tenant was informed that when the ten month lease expires in late February 2018, the rent would not go down no matter what the algorithm would charge a new tenant for the same apartment.

Avalon rules are designed to inflict enough punishment to force the tenant to either move out or pay the inequitable rent. Here's the convoluted recourse:

When the tenant receives the 60 day renewal notice, reject it. Then Avalon can rent that apartment, sight unseen, to a new tenant at the going algorithm rate, currently more than $700 less. The existing tenant is then in jeopardy for the 30 days that the apartment could be rented to an outsider starting at the end of the $4,000 lease.

If the apartment is not rented to another person during that 30 day jeopardy period, the current tenant can then rent as if an outsider at the algorithm rent at that time but only if he/she VACATES for eight days and puts contents into storage! By then the algorithm rent may have increased, so it's a game of chicken. The tenant may win this time but face a comparable situation when the new lease is expiring. In the long run, the house always wins.

What the heck kind of business model is that? Why should a good tenant be put through that anxiety? Why such inequity?

Through Nov. 12, 2017 for seven two bed, two bath apartments. The daily fluctuation was comparable for all.