Logitech Harmony 670 remote

Harmony 670 remote

Some things are so good that they seamlessly integrate into your life and you don’t realize just how good they are until you don’t have them anymore. For me that’s the Harmony 670 remote. I bought it for myself after last Christmas. It allowed me to consolidate to one remote for our DVR, TV, PS2/DVD player and lighting with future expansion options. We previously had four remotes for this. The remote that came with our DVR was not compatible with our HP TV, the PS2 had a wired controller and the lighting, well, is lighting. Note: I use a rope light from Home Depot to backlight the flat panel TV. Sort of a poor man’s ambilight.

My setup immediately became user-friendly to even the most non-technical of users. And, my wife loves it. You just push the “Watch TV” button and it turns on the DVR and TV and changes the TV to the correct input setting. Likewise, “Watch Movie” turns on the DVD player, TV and switches the TV to the correct input for that.

So, obviously, you are wondering why I mentioned that I don’t have it anymore. Well, a couple weeks ago, the LCD display went blank and no longer displayed text. The unit is very difficult to use without the LCD.

After I submitted a support request through Logitech’s web site and made a follow up call they are sending me a new remote. And, I just need to “recycle” the old one. So, normally, I would never recommend even the greatest product if it broke on me, I don’t hesitate to recommend this one. The warranty support is great. These days, many electronics products have short warranties and/or difficult to deal with off-shored support. Logitech has neither. A one year warranty and, after I submitted my original trouble call electronically and followed their instructions on how to re-flash the firmware (which did not help), when I called I spoke to a pleasant customer service person who, no follow-up questions asked, initiated the shipment of a new unit.

Logitech has several varieties of this remote. I choose this model because of the DVR integration. My wife just pointed out that Money magazine just highlighted this exact model in their article on the greatest gifts ever.

Good stuff from my inbox

It seems like a good time to share some of the things recently coming through my inbox.

I commented in the forum on chrome pony wheels and the difficulty finding them. Well, I got an email from a regular visitor, Ron, which informed me that CJ Pony Parts still lists them. Also, I was reviewing my FAQ and I had a link there to the Ford Racing catalog where they appeared. They are still listed there.

Being a person who uses acronyms all of the time I sometimes refer to Triple White Fox as “TWF”. In fact, the Forums on this site are called the TWF Forum. I didn’t really much think about it until I recently received an email with the subject “help please!!!! on the wtf forum”. Obviously a typo, but, I had to laugh because there is an alternate meaning to WTF. Maybe that person types that expression a lot and didn’t notice it. I still type explorer all of the time when I mean explore.

Mike from Texas sent me this from the San Antonio Mustang Club Car Show on October 28, 2007. Mike’s triple white took first place for the fourth consecutive year!

San Antonio Mustang Club Car Show

You don’t see many pictures with all three cars like this. There was a 7-up car there as well. Congratulations Mike!

Finally, from one of the members of our military who owns a feature car at Seymour Johnson AFB, NC:

Seymour Johnson AFB, NC

Very cool. That car has 14,500 original miles!

Garage remodel

Some of the people who I work with joked with me that I must be out of home projects to be doing a garage remodel. Well, not really. If you are into cars as much as I am, which I figure you must be if you are reading this site regularly, you know that it is not entirely out of the question to redo your garage when, say, the porch off the back of it is in serious need of a repaint.

I love our house but the one thing I would do differently if we were buying again would be to get a 2+ car garage. My one car garage is good size but was, until recently, the area used to store yard tools and the like. Here’s a shot of it at probably its worst.

Garage before

Still room for the car but barely. Note the low-tech car ramps which I parked the car on as a normal practice so I didn’t have to store them elsewhere. This resulted in a question from nearly everyone who entered my garage about their purpose as if I knew some secret to car storage that required storing it with its front end elevated. The other thing about these ramps is that when my brother saw them he said he had built a set just like them. I guess great minds think alike.

Well, this was the year of the shed. It was a purchase that I have been thinking about for several years now. That allowed me to get nearly everything that was non-car related out of the garage. I also painted it. I am pleased with the result.

Garage after

I repositioned the cabinets from the side wall onto the back wall and added a took bench I had in my basement. I did this work during a week off I had in October. I didn’t have the idea for doing the lower wall in red until the Friday before I started the painting.

The black stripe is not just cosmetic. It is functional and serves as a sort of chair rail. I prefer to call it a “door rail”. It provides a layer of protection between the car door and the wall. My walls are textured plaster on one side and a brick chimney on the other. Neither are very forgiving.

The rail is actually not the same thickness all around. In the 7 or so feet on each side of the garage, where I deemed that a door is most likely to open, the rail is made from 5/4″ x 4″ board. It tapers to 1/4″ x 4″ board to cover the rest of the garage. This picture of the “door rail” in progress should give you a better idea. The top and bottom edge are painted black.

Garage door rail in progress

I then applied a rubber surface to the board. The rubber is actually just standard black cove base like you would use with a vinyl floor. I cut the bottom part of the base (the cove) off to make a 4″ wide rubber strip. This approach allowed me to have no exposed screws. All screws are countersunk under the rubber molding which, in turn, is glued to the board.

In the above photo you can see the rubber strip on the right side on a board setup I was using to trim the bottom off. Below you can see the finished result. Note how the “high point” on the door edge meets the rail nearly dead center. Yeah, I’m pretty anal. This height was optimal for the Mustang but also works well with the other cars we own.

Garage door rail in progress

The Mustang now fits nicely in the garage with plenty of room on either side to pass by.

Garage with Mustang

I am still in the process of decorating it with various Mustang signs that I have. A future phase might involve addressing the floor. I am concerned that epoxy might not last long. I have seriously considered Race Deck flooring as well as the Moto Floor alternative they sell at Costco. Although, both are a little outside of my budget for now.

Ebay auction integration: A look behind the scenes of triplewhitefox.com

Once is a great while I use this space to write about the technical side of this site. You see, I am a geek at heart. My strategy has been to use technology at its fullest in order to present generally non-technical topics. I have thought about writing a blog about technology or adding technical topics here (which might be good for my career) but so far I have refrained from doing this. I face and solve a lot of technical challenges at work that might make a good read but, in my free time, I would rather focus on the things I enjoy. For this site, I use technology that I don’t get to use at work and in ways that enhance my hobbies.

When I first announced the integration of ebay listings into the site I mentioned that I needed to build some automation to make the tracking easier. For the last couple weeks I have been manually editing the for sale web page using an HTML editor. It has been kind of monotonous and time consuming. Today, I have completed the first piece of automation for that.

I had already automated the tracking of completed ebay auctions several years ago. I had a page where I entered the auction id and the server then went out and gathered the information on the auction by parsing the ebay web page HTML related to the auction. This new requirement was simply adding a process to go out and do the same thing while the auction was still active. I then need not do the same thing when the auction ended but I just need to add the outcome information. That means only slightly more manual work for me in order to add a significant new feature to the site. Of course, there is the additional work related to tracking parts in addition to cars.

While doing this, I took the opportunity to change the triplewhitefox.com server process that harvests the data from ebay. Parsing the web page HTML from ebay proved to be problematic over time. Being a web page, it was tied to the presentation and layout of the page. A couple times in the past, when they changed the look of their listings, my process broke because of this. To solve this I joined the ebay developers program which allows me to make programmatic calls using their Shopping API which return very well defined results. When I first wrote this stuff to use the HTML the developers program was available but had more strict requirements for joining that, as a casual user, I felt were too much of a barrier for me.

Now, the barrier to entry is lower. It costs nothing and there is no need to get their approval of my code before I can call their API. So, here’s what this looks like behind the scenes.

I use an administrative screen to enter the auction id I would like to track. I specify what area the auction is related to (’92 feature cars, ’93 feature cars, ’90 7-up cars, other cars and parts). Through this classification I can later look at cross segments of the information. This is what ultimately allows me to generate the where are they? pages. Right now I only do the ’92 and ’93 cars but I can easily do the ’90 cars in the future.

(click on each image for a larger view)

Adding an ebay listing

When I submit this form, the system then goes out and uses the aforementioned ebay Shopping API in order to get the details. I then edit the auction details. This allows me to clean up any data that does not come in correctly. These are usually very minimal changes. For example, sometimes the transmission is wrong on the 1992 cars.

Editing an ebay listing

When I save the results, it gets immediately added to the for sale page. It is the second entry here.

ebay listings

As auctions pass their end date, they automatically drop off of the ‘for sale’ page that you see but they still appear on my administrators version of that page. Here, in my view, they are highlighted in light red.

ebay listings with ended entries

I can then edit the auction using the admin link that only I see. That admin links takes me back to the edit screen in the second screenshot. This is where I add the closing bid information, save it and it then gets reflected immediately on the “where are they?” page.