Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sermon by Steve Shank on 1 Timothy 1:1-2

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,  To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord."

What is going on in 2014?

1. God is sovereignly at work.
Paul did not plan to become the apostle to the gentiles.
- Opportunities for faith
- Trials in our faith
"Faith refuses to look at circumstances without taking God into account."
My times are in Your hands...please rescue me!

“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there” C. H. Spurgeon

2. Jesus is our hope.
Our hope is in nothing else.

3. All that we need He has supplied.
Whatever happens, God is for us and always provides the grace that we need.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Connecting an Xbox 360 with no wifi directly to computer for Windows Media Center

I have used Windows Media Center as my DVR system for years now. With an inexpensive USB TV Tuner, I can get HD quality over the air channels for free and record them with my computer with no ongoing costs. The only issue I've had is that my computer's video card isn't quite able to keep up with presenting the HD videos on my large screen television plugged into the DVI port. I was reminded recently that my Xbox 360 can be used as a Windows Media Center extender, and it occurred to me that the Xbox video card would probably do a much superior job presenting my recorded shows and movies. But as I started to try to hook it up in my new house, I remembered why I hadn't done it before. My Xbox 360 does not have WiFi built in, and I'm unwilling to fork over the $60 for the adapter to add it. Since my router is in another room, I would have to run a network cable through two walls and over a vaulted ceiling to get the Xbox hard wired into the network.

But I had been studying networks for my second Bachelor's degree recently and started to wonder if I could just plug my computer directly into the Xbox using a crossover cable. I did some web searching and it appeared that it should be possible. It turns out that the Xbox has auto sensing capabilities so I ended up using a regular network cable. The only tricky part was getting the Xbox on the right subnet, but when I viewed the properties of the network adapter on my computer, I saw that the IP was with a subnet mask of So I manually configured the Xbox to have an IP of with the same subnet mask and set 137.1 as the default gateway and primary dns server. After a few reboots and retries, the two machines saw each other and the Windows Media Center extender started working.

Now I can get full HD quality no problem and I even got internet connection sharing on the computer to allow the Xbox to connect to the internet for updates. I don't pay for Gold or really play online games at all, so I don't use the internet connection much.

After I got it working, my friend Josh gave me a WiFi game adapter, which would still have been nice to have so that my computer wouldn't have to be so close to my Xbox and TV. But when I hooked it up, there were significant bandwidth issues with the performance, and I haven't had time to figure out where the bottleneck is. My current setup is pretty nice, and I'm happy with it.

Installing WiFi Thermostat in a house with only four connected wires in the wall

I just moved into a new house and wanted to get a WiFi thermostat installed so that I could control the a/c from anywhere I had internet. The house was built in the late 1980s and appeared to still have original Honeywell thermostats with mercury inside. I purchased a Honeywell WiFi thermostat on Amazon and followed the instructions as well as I could. Uninstalling the existing thermostat seemed like no problem, but I was a little over eager and broke it as I was taking it off the wall. So I had to get the new one working, or we were without heat.

The instructions were very clear that I needed a "C" common wire to provide power to the new thermostat. And of course, I didn't have one. After spending a few hours searching the web and tracing wires out at the heat pump, none of the colors made sense and I even moved some around, which was a mistake I regretted later. I could see a terminal labeled "C" on the circuit board, but I had no idea how I was going to get a wire to it and it appeared to already have a wire on it that was being used, so I gave up. I called my handyman who came by the next morning, but he was not sure how to solve it and suggested it would be easier just to buy a thermostat that didn't require a C wire (all the WiFi thermostats I could find do require one).

By this point, it was Monday and I did not have time to work on it until the next weekend. Unfortunately, we were entering the coldest week of the year, including freezing temperatures that are somewhat rare in Gilbert, Arizona. I still had my basement heater working, so I cranked that one up, but even at 70 degrees downstairs the main floor was a cool 61 most of the week. Needless to say, we were ready to get it fixed.

I spoke to an electrical engineer friend at work who explained that I needed to connect a wire to a negative terminal somewhere so that the 24 volts of electricity could flow through the thermostat at all times. Then it was just a matter of finding that terminal. I learned that my unit is actually split between a heat pump outside and an air handler in the attic. So Saturday morning, I climbed into the attic, took off the cover of the air handler, and stared at a bunch more switches and wires withe no idea what to do. After a bit of Googling, I found a website that offered to connect me with an A/C expert by chat for a small fee, and I gave it a try. It turned out pretty well - he was able to understand my problem and had me take pictures of the inside of the air handler to help find the right spot. He pointed me to the 24 volt transformer and specifically the negative terminal on the 24 volt side. I purchased a connector and an extension thermostat wire and connected my extra black wire to that spot. The hardest part ended up being getting my extension wire out of the air handler box - the holes for wires were pretty tight and not easily loosened. Once I had that in place, I used the black wire as my C wire and everything worked. Well, almost everything. Because I had moved some wires out at the heat pump, my heater was still not kicking on. But since I had documented the entire line of wires and colors, I was able to deduce which ones I had switched and as soon as I switched them back, all was well...and warm.

Thank you Norm (Wvfan79) for your help.