Decyphering Modern Toaster Ovens

January 17, 2012

We recently purchased a new toaster oven.  What’s so exciting about that?  This one has a 5 position cooking mode – with just two heating elements: top and bottom.  So what’s the difference between the modes?  Here is what 20 20 minute test yielded:

1) WARM: Top elements only.  Power consumption = 363W.

2) BROIL: Top elements only. Power consumption = 681W.

3) BAKE: Top element low, bottom element high.  Power consumption = 1012W.

4) TOAST: Top element high, bottom element low.  Power consumption = 1315W (?!?!?).

5) GRILL: Both elements high.  Power consumption = 1300W.

What I think is going on is that the controller does PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) in 0%, 50%, 100% steps.  If the steps are normalized, the each step is about 325W.  So one set of elements at 50% consume 325W (WARM), one set of elements at 100% power is 650W (BROIL).  One set at 50% and the other at 100% power consume 975W (BAKE) and all elements at full power consume 1300W.  That doesn’t match my observation that in TOAST mode it consumed 1315W.  So the toaster oven has an “enigma” mode in which it consumes 325W more than expected.

And did you ever wonder what a “pizza bump” is?  All it means is that the back of the toaster oven has a circular outward bump so that you can put a 12″ inside the not so rectangular oven.  Typically, this also means that you got one wire rack with a circular back to match.

Now you know as much as I do about toaster ovens!

Cox SA8240 DVR and External SATA Drive Problems Continue…

November 6, 2011

So, it’s been about a month since I have put together my own DVR expander using a Samsung 750GB SATA hard drive an an old USB enclosure.  In the past few weeks, the DVR started developing an allergy to the external drive.  It would manifest itself in random reboots and more recently the symptoms have gotten worst.  When we tried to play shows that were saved on the external drive, the DVR reported that the show was recorded on an external device that is not accessible.  At the same time, the DVR still reported the full expanded capacity of the DVR and external drive.

At first, this was resolved by a simple reboot, but lately it hasn’t been working.  It’s now to the point that we can’t watch any show that was recorded on the external drive.

Cox, can you get any firmware right?

Cox Communications Continues to “Reform” it’s Internet Service

November 2, 2011

During the month of September Cox Communications announced to it’s customers that it is enacting monthly date caps on its cable Internet customers.  Our cap is 50GByte per month.  Just today (November 2nd) I received another email to let me know that Cox is discontinuing it’s WebSpace service.  WebSpace is a home page service that Cox provided in lieu of letting people run their own web servers at home.  Cox blocks ports 80 and 443 (amongst others) which prevents people from operating a home web page on an address without an explicit port redirect.  Obviously, Cox hasn’t decided to reverse it’s policy to block ports 80 and 443.  This has been a long and slow process by cox to reduce its service level while raising prices.

Cox, you suck!

WaterSentinel WSL-1 Filter Problem

October 9, 2011

Last year I purchased a three pack of WaterSentinel WSL-1 water filter.  WaterSentinel claim it’s a direct replacement to the LG 5231JA2002A refrigerator filter.  I put the first one in, and within 10 minutes I had a flooded refrigerator – what a bummer!  Not even their “Free Silicone Lubricant” helped.  I ended up having to pull the O-rings off the original filter and put them on the WSL-1.  Unfortunately, this happened with all three WaterSentinel filters.  I tried to email customer service about this in early September but I never heard back.  I think I am going to try a different brand of water filter next.

Built My Own DVR Expander

October 7, 2011

So, I have blogged about the journey of external SATA drives with the SA8240HDC DVR.  After discovering the 1TB WD DVR expander causes the DVR to crash I decided to revert to a build-it-yourself approach.  For this, I cannibalized an old external USB enclosure I no longer use.

Here is what I did:  first, I removed the USB adapter board and left just the power supply – since that’s all I really needed.  Then, I removed the original fan, since it was small (40mm) and whiny.  Since this went in the living room – I wanted it to be silent!  I did some searching on Newegg and found the Nexus SP802512L-03 80mm fan for $9.  It is specified to run at 1500 rpm, 20.2CFM and 15.6dB(A) – that’s pretty quiet. I cut a hole in the enclosure and installed the fan on top.  The gap between the fan and enclosure was sealed with some Silicone (RTV) to prevent air leakage and to dampen vibration.  Also, since now I had much more air flow, I needed to drill additional air ports on the other end of the enclosure.  Based on the cross section of the 80mm fan and the original vent holes, I estimated the amount of area I need to provide free air flow.  Since I had decent luck with a couple of Seagate drive, I purchased a recertified 750GB Seagate drive from Newegg for $33.  It’s a Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3750528AS 750GB.  Why recertified?  Because it’s cheap and I know it’s been repaired and tested to specifications.  As a personal note, I’d never buy an open box since so many computer geeks overclock, overheat and return for a replacement.

I have had the SATA drive working for a week now and everything seems to be working well.  The drive runs cool to the touch, so it’s probably operating at about 75F-80F, and the enclosure is hardly audible.  Since the DVRs of this family always select the drive with the largest available space for recording,  I know the external drive has been recording 100% of the shows this past week.  750GB most always has more free space than the internal 160GB hard drive.

If I learn anything new, I’ll post updates.  I keep on crossing my fingers Cox doesn’t break it again!

And on another topic, Cox Cable once again prove they suck.  Last week they sent everyone an email to let us know that we are now throughput AND have monthly data transfer caps.  Since they already block ports, I wonder how long until they will start QoSing VoIP and other protocols in order to steer us torwards their low quality / high price services.

Here are pictures of the final product:

Cox Cable SA8240HDC – It Was Too Good To Be True

September 20, 2011

So last week I reported that the Cox Cable SA8240HDC SATA bug was fixed – well, it was… kinda.  I tried several hard drives and all seemed to work fine.  But then I added a Western Digital 1TB DVR Expander.  This unit was design especially for DVRs such as the SA8240HDC.  After I plugged it in, the DVR recognized it and asked to format it  – as expected.  But within a few hours the DVR started going bonkers.  This included the DVR becoming non responsive, rebooting, and finally – just going blank.  The only way to resolve this was to unplug the Western Digital DVR expander and reboot the DVR.  I tried this several times, with identical results each time.  So Cox, good job on getting the DVR to recognize and initialized external drives, now it’s time to make them work right!

Cox Fixed the SA8240HDC – Great Job!

September 13, 2011

For once, here are some raves to Cox Communications.  It seems like Cox has been listening and working on a fix.  I checked the firmware versions on my DVR and discovered a new release was uploaded (I’ll post firmware versions when I get to it).  I plugged in a few SATA drives and all of them were recognized, formatted, and added to the storage pool.  The drives I tested are:

  1. Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9, 120GB, Model #: 6Y120M0
  2. Seagate Barracuda ES.2, 500GB,  Model #: ST3500320NS
  3. Seagate Barracuda 7200.10, 750GB, Model #: ST3750640A

The only reason as to why I tried these particular drives is that I had them handy.

Good job Cox!

Here is a screen capture of the updated firmware versions:

Cox Cable: Fix the SA8240HDC SATA Bug!

September 7, 2011

First over all a disclaimer:  I don’t have much love towards Cox Cable.  They provide inferior service at a higher cost when compared to other regional cable providers like Time Warner.  But this issue isn’t about love – it’s about their poor customer service.

Prior to upgrading to HD, we had their standard definition DVR – the SA8300 (I have several blog entries about it) and used an external SATA drive in order to increase the storage capacity.  Fast forward to the present, we now have an HDTV so we upgraded (or so we thought) to their HD capable DVR – the SA8240HDC.  Happily, I plugged the same external SATA drive I had on the SA8300 into the SA8240 – but nothing happened.  Normally, when a new drive is plugged into a DVR, the DVR brings up a dialog box acknowledging the connection of the drive and then request permission to format it.  After trying every documented and non-documented boot procedure I realized that the SA8240HDC just doesn’t want to play nice with the external SATA drive.

After doing some research online I discovered that I wasn’t alone. Apparently non of Cox Cable SA8240HDC were recognizing and formatting the external SATA drives.   This is a known problem with the specific firmware on this specific model but Cox has been refusing to fix it.  Apparently, Cisco (owner of Scientific Atlanta) has a firmware fix for it, but Cox hasn’t rolled it out.  Cox you suck!

Reference threads:

DREAM Act – California Style

July 26, 2011

Today, Governor Brown signed the California DREAM act:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-brown-dream-act-20110726,0,3203216.story.

I thought it’s interesting the Governor has decided to provide taxpayer money to non tax payers for the following reasons:

1) Tax paying CA residents receive “free tuition” but they pay “fees” that are higher than tuition in most academic institutions.

2) California schools have been actively advertising and seeking to bring as many out of state students as possible because they pay higher “out of state” rates.  Reference: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/30/university-of-california-out-of-state_n_855924.html

3) The California state budget hasn’t been balanced in over a decade and the state is on the brink of insolvency.

So, put all those issues together, is it really smart to take tax payer money and give it to non tax payers at a time we don’t have enough money to fund our obligations?

The Return Of the Hippie – Richard Stallman, That Is…

June 20, 2011

So the Hippie finally posted a note about the Palestinian trip.  In this note, he clearly admits that the reason for the prohibition to speak at Israeli universities is due to a Palestinian boycott/divestment/sanctions movement that opposes academic cooperation with Israel.  Furthermore, while canceling the speaking events in Israel, the puppet masters allowed Stallman to to participate in an event by the Anarchists Against the Wall.  So Stallman, an advocate of freedom world wide has sold out to a bunch of murderers that have one objective, and one objective only when it comes to Israel – the destruction of the State of Israel and killing of all it’s people.  Stallman, you find it easy to talk about Palestinian suffering, but you remain silent about the thousands of rockets fired into Israel, you remain silent about the tens of suicide bombers that have killed Israeli children and women indiscriminately.  Stallman – you are a fake, and a hypocrite.