Unplug and Reboot – Troubleshooting Apple Airplay, a Yamaha Receiver, and Frontier DSL

07ED180BE35443FAA6D01C48DE795B0A_12075If you’ve ever placed a call to a tech support line for computer equipment, you know that usually one of the first things they’ll instruct you to do is unplug the device, wait 15 seconds, plug it back in, and then reboot it. I used to give that same advice when I worked for a company doing tech support. I should have followed that advice, but it’s amazing how you can get tunnel vision when working on a problem.

Last year I purchased a new stereo receiver, a Yamaha RX-V473, after my previous receiver blew up. One of the reasons I purchase this particular receiver was for its Airplay and Internet radio capabilities. For those of you not familiar with it, Airplay is an Apple technology that allows you to listen to the music you have stored in iTunes on your phone or computer through your stereo. It’s pretty cool technology, and I had gotten used to it, as well as I loved listening to net radio.

I found a couple of great stations on net radio that I really liked, the Jethro Tull station, and a big band jazz station. It became our weekend routine to listen to the big band station in the morning.

That all came to a halt when I decided to switch my Internet service from Suddenlink cable to Frontier DSL. Over the years I had grown to hate Suddenlink, for while my bill kept increasing, their performance and reliability suffered. When I was supposed to be getting 8MB service, I found that at night when everyone was downloading Netflix streams, I could barely get 2MB. So I downgraded to their 1MB for cost savings and ditched Netflix. When some vandal started cutting Suddenlink’s cable every few days, I finally had had enough. Not because the outages were their fault, but because they were the type of company that would inspire such vandalization in the first place.

So we made the switch to Frontier and everything went smoothly. Frontier’s bundle meant I was getting my DSL at no extra cost, plus my download speeds were improved to 6MB. But there were two problems that I put on the back burner for awhile.

First the Internet radio was full of clicks and crackles, like listening to an old record. While listening to the big ban station I just pretended it was an old record, but after awhile I got tired of my own delusion.

The second problem was that Airplay no longer worked.

The odd thing was that I could see the receiver on the network, and I could even use the iPhone app Yamaha provides to turn it on and off, and switch inputs, as well as changing radio stations. I couldn’t figure out what would cause a digital signal to degrade the way it was, usually digital signals are fine or they don’t work at all.

I tried playing with the router that Frontier provides, a Netgear 7550. This model of router is sold only to telecomm companies, and they don’t provide a manual for it but I was able to find some info on the web for it. But nothing seemed to help.

Finally I decided to put the router in bridge mode and go back to using my old router. Again I found instructions on the web, but I still couldn’t get it to work. So I called up a local network guy and had him come over just to double check everything. He was stumped, but finally made the suggestion to just try unplugging the receiver since it was normally in a standby mode when turned off.

So I unplugged it, waited the 15 seconds, plugged it back in, and after it warmed up both problems vanished. The net radio was crystal clear, and the Airplay was able to stream. Because the LAN IP address changed from my old router to the new one, some old setting was saved in the receiver and it was screwing it up. I don’t know what it saved, and I don’t really care. The important thing is my music is back.

I did decide to keep the old router in place, mainly because it puts the wireless access point in the part of the house where we most often use wireless. To do that I just disabled the wireless in the Netgear 7550, then plugged the old router into a port of the 7550. No other configuration changes were required.

So my lesson learned was just because a device shows up on a network, it doesn’t mean the old unplug and reboot trick isn’t necessary.

P.S. I really love the Yamaha RX-V473 receiver and the iPhone app that is a free download. It is so much easier controlling the receiver with the iPhone than using their standard remote control. It is such a great app, I’m thinking of someday upgrading to their blueray player that also can be controlled by the app.

Let’s Make A Deal

In Sam Harris’ book, The Moral Landscape, the author makes the point how hard it is to change someone’s belief, even when you present them with facts. To illustrate his point he provides the following example.

Imagine that you are a contestant on a game show and presented with three closed doors: behind one sits a new car; the other two conceal goats. Pick the correct door, and the car is yours.

The game proceeds this way: Assume that you have chosen Door #1. Your host then opens Door #2, revealing a goat. He now gives you a chance to switch your bet from Door #1 to the remaining Door #3. Should you switch? The correct answer is “yes.” But most people find this answer very perplexing, as it violates the common intuition that, with two unopened doors remaining, the odds must be 1 in 2 that the car will be behind either one of them. If you stick with your initial choice, however, your odds of winning are actually 1 in 3. If you switch, your odds increase to 2 in 3.

It would be fair to say that the Monty Hall problem leaves many of its victims “logically dumbfounded.” Even when people understand conceptually why they should switch doors, they can’t shake their initial intuition that each door represents a 1/2 chance of success.

I have to admit after reading that problem, I was one of the victims who was dumbfounded. Even after reading the end notes that explain the logic further, it was still hard to grasp.

But there was one way to prove it, and that was to write a program that would run the game show contest over and over, and compile the results. So that’s what I did, and here are my results:

Games Played = 100000
Switch & Won = 33228
Switch & Lost = 16772
Stayed & Won = 16594
Stayed & Lost = 33406

That’s pretty close to the 1/3 chance of winning if you stay with your first choice and 2/3 chance of winning if you switch. Now I just need to get on that game show for real. We could use a new car!

Once I wrote the program I had a better understanding of what was happening. Hopefully with some pie charts I can help you wrap your head around this teaser.

Here’s our chances at the beginning of the game. Three doors, there’s a 33.3% chance that the car is behind any door.

You decide to select Door #1. Your slice of the pie is 1/3 with 2/3 remaining.

Just to make that clearer, here’s the 1/3 you picked, and the 2/3 left over. The car has to be in one of those two pie slices, either the 1/3 you picked or the 2/3 you didn’t.

Now you’re shown that the car isn’t behind Door #2. But that doesn’t change the fact that you still only have 1/3 of the pie. It does mean however, that the other 2/3 that you don’t have has been consolidated into Door #3 because you now know the car isn’t behind Door #2.

Just in case you’re interested in trying it out yourself, here’s the PHP code I wrote to test it.

echo "Switch & Won = ".$switchwin."
echo "Switch & Lost = ".$switchlose."
echo "Stayed & Won = ".$staywin."
echo "Stayed & Lost = ".$staylose."


Today is one of those days where I’m pining for the Internet we had back in 1995. When I first found out about the World Wide Web it was a welcoming homey place. A place where you felt safe because it was just people sharing their knowledge.

Back then I never came across people trying to get your bank account numbers, black hat SEO wasn’t a problem, and I got a lot more work done.

These days I spend a lot of time worrying. I notice something funny going on and it requires research just to figure out whether it’s something I really need to be worried about or not.

This morning I received the bill from Hurricane Electric who is one of the hosting companies I use for my clients. I had slightly gone over my bandwidth limit and so there was an extra charge. Since I hadn’t added any big new clients lately (dang!) I became suspicious that maybe my server had been co-opted for some nefarious purpose. So instead of doing any meaningful work, I spent my morning on the phone, and looking at log files. Anyone who has viewed raw log files knows there are more pleasant ways to spend your morning.

Then all morning I started getting comments to moderate for this blog. Rather unusual because normally I’m lucky if I receive 1 comment a month here, so 6 in one morning caught my attention. They were all from different parts of the world, and all with different comments. Ok, that I get, comment spam. Usually done to promote some web site. Only these didn’t list any web site URLs, either in the web site field or in the text.

They all did have some weird misspellings, and were generic comments that had nothing really to do with what I wrote about. So yeah they’re spam, but what’s their motive, their agenda?

The only thing I can think of is that WordPress has a setting where once you approve a comment by someone, further posts from that person can be automatically approved. I don’t use that setting, but the spammer has no way of knowing. So they submit a rather innocuous first post hoping it’ll get approved, sure to be followed up by their real spam later.

The misspellings are random, I think to make it harder to Google a phrase to see if it is a common generated comment.

Doesn’t matter to me. I treat all comments that don’t mention what the post is about as spam. So if you want to spam my comment field, you’re going to at least have to read what I wrote. And you’re going to have to write a comment that relates to the post. I feel that’s only fair.

Now stop wasting my time. I’m trying to earn a living here.

Replacing the Del Sol’s Headlights

After Lori’s accident with the deer I needed to replace the right headlight and turn signal. The first step was to remove the front bumper so I could fully assess what was going to be needed.

Not sure how to remove the Del Sol’s bumper, I turned to the Internet and found these instructions. The instructions were pretty good but I have a few comments on them.

First, start with the two bolts underneath the bumper. That way you can be under the car when the bumper is securely attached and you don’t have to worry about it falling down on you. I found that both of the bottom bolts had been partially ground off from making contact with low objects so removing them was a bit tough.

Next take off the two side screws. I found that the inner fender is flexible enough that you can push it out of the way and insert a philips head screwdriver into the cutout that Honda thoughtfully provided. You’ll have to feel around a bit to find the screw but it works.

Finally remove the top screws and you’re all done. It just lifts off from there.


With the bumper off I found some of the plastic bits that broke off of the lights. I was hoping to just replace the lens and glue everything else back together but Honda doesn’t sell the lens separately. You have to buy the whole assembly, and the headlight assembly is $270. The mounting bracket was another $60 dollars, and the turn signal assembly was another $190. So over $500 just to fix the two lights.

At that price I thought about searching the local salvage yard but they didn’t have any in stock. The guy I talked to though suggested just replacing both the left and right lights with after market units.

So back to the Internet and I found these replacement lights that combine the headlight, the turn signal and the mounting bracket into one unit. Total cost with shipping and tax was just under $200.

They installed just as advertised. They’re actually a lot easier to work with than the OEM units. The Honda assemblies seem a bit over engineered.

The right side took some work getting it to fit only because the car’s frame had been bent from the impact. I also had to bend the frame for the driving light back to something that more closely approximated the original configuration.


Everything went back together pretty smoothly, and then it was off for a drive to Kragen to get replacement bulbs for some of them that got damaged. On the drive back I realized that I should have bought amber bulbs for the turn signals. After getting home and taking a look at the lights, I realized that in order to change the turn signal bulbs I’m going to have to go through the whole bumper removal process again. A design flaw in the integrated units, but for the price difference I’m willing to do the extra work.

Maybe some day when we have more money I’ll repair or replace the hood and get it repainted. But for now at least it’s back on the road and if I can sell the driver side units on Ebay for half of the OEM price, I’ll be $50 ahead.


Strike Two

When I got home from the fire department drill last night the garage door for the Del Sol was open, which I thought was kind of odd. When I got into the house, Lori told me why. She had hit a deer on her way home on Hwy 211. She seemed shaken but she was totally ok.

After seeing my last experience with a deer strike where it totaled the car, I was fearing the worst. Especially since just last week in a budget cutting move I had decided to drop the collision and comprehensive on the Del Sol.

So I was quite amazed when I got a look at the car. The damage is minimal. The headlight is broken, but still works, the turn signal light is broken but still works, the driving light got pushed back and for some reason doesn’t work, and the hood is a bit buckled but that may resolve itself when I get the headlight back where it’s supposed to be. I guess there are some advantages to driving a low slung sports car. The contact point would have been with the deer’s legs rather than its body. Lori was also very lucky in that she caught the tail end of the deer as it was crossing in front of her from left to right.

In over 30 years of driving, Lori has been the safest driver I know. She’s never had an accident, nor has she even received a ticket. (oh wait, there was that little touch and go in our extremely narrow garage in South San Francisco) But she has been unfortunate to cross paths with deer twice.

The first incident came during our honeymoon, and any of you who have known us for a while have probably heard the honeymoon story. It’s a long story, filled with all kinds of disasters, from a skiing accident that left blood stains in the snow, to setting her bathrobe on fire. But the deer portion of the story is that we went out to dinner for her birthday and on the way home I let her drive the ’69 El Camino that we had just recently bought. Honeymooning on a motorcycle in the middle of the winter wasn’t an option.

So on the way home out jumps Bambi and before she even has much of a chance to react, there’s an impact. Bambi jumps back up and disappears into the woods. Lori pulls over and wants to go rescue the injured Bambi, bless her animal loving heart. But it’s pitch black outside, and we’re in a wooded hilly section and for all I know, it could be a 100 ft. drop off the side of the road. So I had to hang onto her to keep her from going over the edge.

Then a bunch of other disasters happen and finally we decide to cut the honeymoon short and we head home. More disaster ensues. We get home exhausted and I call my mom to let her know we’re back. She wants us to come over and open our wedding presents. We are not the happy couple at this point and so it takes some sweet talking from mom before we finally acquiesce.

One of the first presents Lori opens is a little brass paper weight in the shape of a fawn. She breaks down in tears, leaving everyone else but me with a puzzled expression on their face.

So last night I asked her if maybe she was ready to give venison another try. The next deer that decides to make a dessert out of her Taboo roses, better have a good escape plan.

Worlds Worst Spammer

I just received this message in my mailbox:

I am Steven, a respectable business man from Canada. I am indeed
interested in your horse posted for sale. I want to buy the horse as a 
surprise birthday gift for my daughter. I will like to know if the horse is 
still available for sale and will also like to know your final asking price. 
I have a shipper who will come over there to pick the horse as soon as 
the payment is completely received by you. Please let me know your 
asking price if the horse is still available for sale, the reason for selling 
and recent picture if available so we can proceed from there. I will be 
looking forward to hear from you.


Now the only credit I can give this spammer is that his message did get through my rather extensive set of spam filters. Everything else about it just made me laugh.

First off, I don’t have a horse, so that would rule out me having a horse for sale. Seems a weird scam to pull off, as statistically, your average American does not have a horse for sale.

As the rest of the message provides enough clues to the contrary, Steven is not a respectable businessman from Canada. A check of the IP address from where it was sent comes up with the startling news that he’s from Nigeria.

I sure hope his daughter isn’t disappointed that she’s not getting a pony for her birthday.