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Scott's Column
The Deck, Speakers, and Server Configuration

July 1, 2003
By Scott Lewis

Well, we forged ahead and are building the deck to go between the pool and the back of our house. I am getting ready to take care of some server configuration issues, and I finally put speakers on the back porch.

The Deck

Since the deck has consumed the majority of my time lately I will start there. We are having a big family Bar-B-Q at our house for Fourth of July. We wanted the deck to be finished before all the guests arrived. So, by the time you read this (remember, I write this the month before I publish it, and I publish it on the first day of the month... unless I am late) hopefully our deck should be finished.

I wanted to say it was a lot of fun, and a lot of work. But that would be a lie. I dreaded the amount of time I had to put into this project. And I NEVER would have been able to to it without a lot of help from my brother-in-law. But the deck is wonderful, so far (final assessment will come next month). We used a composite material for the surface of the deck. This provides two major advantages over wood. 1) No splinters, and 2) No maintenance. 

deck1.jpg (72240 bytes)It was the maintenance that was the reason for the composite material. It costs more, but my brother-in-law says I will make up the cost easily in not having to pressure wash and restain/protect the deck every 2 to 3 years. We did use standard pressure treated lumber for the framing and the railing. Eventually we may go with a better material for the railing. Right now the deck has space by the pool, a place for a table and chairs, and connects the back bathroom to the back porch. Eventually we will make the deck larger to cover more area between the house and pool. That's when the final railing material will be determined. I am thinking about a combination of wood posts with some kind of metal for the main sections. but that is far into the future.

Many days I just felt like giving up on the deck. I am lazy by nature, but my wife did a good job of inspiring me to get out there and work on the deck. And no, I do not mean nag. She was a real trooper and helped me whenever I needed a hand. Even if she didn't help she was with me all the time.

I have not bought a new grill yet. I can only do so much at a time. Mine is in bad shape. I was cleaning it a while back and a hole broke into the burner on the left side. Now the left side only has one big flame coming out of that hole. This leaves me cooking on the right side only, and it isn't exactly evenly cooking. It will do for small meals with just my wife and kids, but barely. I will borrow my brother-in-law's grill for the Fourth of July celebration. It sure is convenient having him next door.

The Camaro

I put my 67 Camaro RS Convertible up for sale. I got 4 calls in the first 24 hours, then they trickled off. One guy called the day after I posted in and had to come see it that day... at lunch time. He couldn't even wait until I got home. Then he never called back. Oh well, his loss.

The car is in very good condition, and I spent a lot of time cleaning it to perfection. I took a lot of pictures, and built a web page detailing everything I could think of. Hopefully I will sell it soon. I don't really want to part with it, but it is the process of selling it that bothers me now.

Server Configuration

During the month of June we had some severe weather in San Antonio. Nothing too serious, but enough to knock out the power a few times. My wife's computer had trouble reconnecting to the Internet after the power came on. This was determined to be for one of two reasons.

Reason 1. Her laptop "connected" to my old router hub. This is particularly strange since it's a wireless laptop. So, the laptop wirelessly connected by way of the wireless router/hub and got its IP address from the old router/hub. When I would go to the setup page for the wireless router/hub from my desktop computer I would see the Linksys setup page for the wireless router/hub. If I went to that same address from the laptop I saw the setup screen for the old router/hub. Clearly they were using the same IP address. 

When I get some spare time I will try to get into both router/hubs and do a better job of making sure they don't conflict. For the moment I have left the old router/hub out of the network.

Reason 2. The wireless router did not come on nicely. I noticed that it would only light some of its lights, and dimly. I would have to unplug it for a couple of minutes and then plug it back in. Until I did this it did not talk nicely to the cable modem or the other computers in the house, wirelessly or not.

One other problem I have when the power goes out is that my server will not turn on unless a monitor is attached to it. I don't have an extra monitor so I must lug my desktop monitor to the closet the server sits in and plug it in just to turn it on. Since we print through the server my wife was unable to print until I got home from work to do this. Plus, all my MP3 files are on the server, so it was hard for my wife to enjoy her music if the server was not on.

I am considering a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). I will have the server, the two router/hubs and the cable modem all plugged into the UPS. This will buy time if it is a short power outage.

I also need to configure the server's BIOS to boot without a monitor. This will make my life a lot easier. But first I have to connect my desktop monitor and keyboard to the server. When I get time...

Speakers On The Back Porch

With all the time spent in the back of the house, both swimming in the pool and building the deck, it was finally time to make use of all that speaker wire I ran in the house. I bought a volume control for the kitchen. When we built the house I ran wires to a switch plate/box next to the light switches in the kitchen. I put the volume control there so all we have to do is go inside the kitchen door and adjust the volume to the speakers on the back porch.

My brother-in-law gave me his old Bose 5.1 speakers. I used the surround sound ones on the back porch. I pulled an old Pioneer stereo out of somewhere and ran the speakers wires to that inside the closet with the server. I leave the stereo on all the time... just like the server. I also tried to use my old Pioneer 6 disc CD changer, but alas that did not work. I don't know why. It would try to load a CD, then say there was no CD. I will be on the look out for a cheap carousel style CD changer. They are easy to pop in a CD when we need one. I would like to get one that can play MP3s on CDs. But I am cheap, and don't want to spend too much.

I have not been able to get sound from the server. Apparently the computer doesn't like it when no speakers are attached to a sound card. I will tackle this when I tackle the booting issues above. I just don't have enough hours in the day to get all this done.

Conclusion

I will be taking a brief trip to New York to visit with my sister. She is ill, and I am hoping that it will boost her spirits to see my oldest son. They hit it off incredibly when she came to San Antonio for a visit.

When I return I will hopefully have time to get to the things I didn't have time to before the 4th of July and the trip to NY.
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