Consumer Interest

Consumer tech: fixing my Acurite electronic rain rauge


Acurite seems to have a corner on the consumer low-end weather metrics market. I.e., rain gauges and similar. In the past I’ve bought multiple cheap plastic rain gauges of the Acurite brand. They are quite nice, and cheap. But exposed to freezing water they will develop leaks. And the plastic yellows after a year.

My wife gave me an electronic Acurite rain. The setup was simple and it was working fine. Then one rainy day I noticed there was nothing recorded. Why?

The details

Of course an obvious go-to is the batteries. But I have a battery tester and in this case they tested fine. So I took out the measuring unit and put it next to the recording unit. Still nothing. I took all batteries out. As the recording unit (the inside part of the gauge) was coming up, I noticed that it showed a signal strength going from zero to four bars, over-and-over, which to me indicated it was looking for and not finding a signal from the measuring (outdoor) unit.

What this said to me is the following: the problem was focused on the measuring unit. Likely it wasn’t on for whatever reason.

At this point you could rightly object to point out that maybe the two units simply were on different wavelengths. But I had already taken care of that. I made sure they were both on A. so I feel I had adequately ruled that out.

I noticed the terminals in the measurer’s battery compartment were dulled with crud. I’ve encountered this issue before on my home thermostat. My solution there was to add some wadded-up aluminum foil to the springy terminal. I did the same here; and voila, I began to get a steady four bars on the radio measurement strength!

A healthy Acurite electronic rain gauge, model 02446

I fixed my Acurite rain gauge tonight and shared what I did in case someone else has this issue. It has lasted a year and a half so far. I hope to get a couple more years out of it!

I’m not sure where the crud comes from (the batteries are not leaking!) that eventually cuts off electric contact with the springy terminal (negative contact), but wadded-up aluminum covering it does the trick!

Consumer Interest Consumer Tech

Consumer Tech: How I fixed my Samsung Galaxy A51 Black Screen of Death


After its customary overnight charging my A51 simply showed me a black screen in the morning. Yet I felt something was there because when I plugged it into the computer’s USB port the device was recognized. I was very concerned. But I did manage to completely fix it!

The symptoms

So various sites address this problem and give somewhat different advice. I sort of needed to combine them. So let’s review.

  • Black screen
  • Holding power button down for any length of time does nothing
  • plugging in to USB port of computer shows A51 device
What kind of works, but not really

Yes it’s true that holding the power button and volume down button simultaneously for a few seconds (about three or four) will bring up a menu. The choices presented are

  • Restart
  • Power off
  • Emergency Call

There’s no point to try Emergency Call. But when you try Restart you are asked to Restart a second time. Then the screen goes black again and you are back to where you started. If you choose Power off the screen goes black and you are back to where you started.

What actually works

Continue to hold the power button and volume down button simultaneously – ignore the screen you get mentioned above. Then after another 15 seconds or so it displays a lightning bolt inside a cricle. And if you keep holding that will disappear and you have a black screen. Keep holding and the lightning bolt appears, etc. So let them go. I don’t think it matters at which stage.

Now hopefully you have realy powered off the phone. So then hold the power button for a few seconds like you do to start the phone after it’s been powered off. It should start normally now.

As the other posts say, when you see Samsung on your screen you know you are golden.


I have shared what worked for me recover my Samsugn Galaxy A51 from its Black Screen of Death.

Consumer Interest

Consumer Tech: Warning: Windows 11 wipes out Mediatek Wireless driver


I wrote about my new HP Pavilion Aero laptop previously and how pleased I am with this purchase. And I’m not getting any kickbacks from HP for saying it! Well, this week was a sad story as all of a sudden, the wireless driver could no longer detect the presence of the Mediatek Wireless card. We hadn’t done anything! All the reboots in the world didn’t help. Fortunately it is still under warranty and fortunately HP’s consumer tech support is actually quite good. They helped me fix the problem. I wish to share with the wider community what happened and what fixed it.

The symptoms
  • No amount of rebooting fixes the issue
  • WiFi tile no longer appears (so there is no option to simply turn WiFi back on because you accidentally turned it off)
  • duet.exe file is not found (I don’t think this matters, honestly)

Where you normally see a WiFi icon in the shape of an amphitheater in the system tray, instead you only see:

  • a globe for the WiFi icon

HP PC Hardware Diagnostics Windows utility shows:

  • wireless IRQ test (RZ616) 160 MB FAILED
  • wireless ROM test FAILED

This diagnostics tool can be run in BIOS mode. It restarts the computer and puts you into a special BIOS mode diagnostics. When you run the wireless networking component test:

  • BIOS level component test of wireless networking PASSES

Yes, that’s right. You really didn’t fry the adapter, but Windows 11 totally messed it up.

On my own I tried…

to run HP PC Hardware Diagnostic Windows utility. It suggested I upgrade the BIOS, which I did. I ran some checks. The wireless IRQ test (RZ616) 160 MB failed, as did the wireless ROM test.

I uninstalled the Mediatek driver and reinstalled it.

Nothing doing. I had the insight to make the laptop useful, i.e., connected to Internet, by inserting an old USB wireless adapter that I used to use for my old Raspberry Pi model 2’s! It worked perfectly except only at 2.4 GHz band, ha, ha. But I knew that wasn’t a long-term solution.


The BIOS diag succeeded.

Hold the power button down for a long time to bring up a new menu. The sequence which results from holding power button down a long time seems to be:

  • Initial normal boot
  • Forced shutdown
  • Boot into a special BIOS submenu

Then you enable something. I don’t remember what. But it should be obvious as there were not a lot of choices.

Another reboot, and voila, the WiFi normal icon appears, though it has forgotten the passwords to the networks.

A word about HP support

Maybe I got a tech support person who was exceptionally knowledgeable, but I have to say tech support was exceptional in its own right. And this is coming from someone who is jaded with regards to tech support. My support person was clearly not simply following a script, but actually creatively thinking in real time. So kudos to them.


I lost my Mediatek WiFi adapter on my brand new HP Pavilion Aero notebook which I was so enamored with. HP support said it was due to a deficiency in the way Microsoft does Windows 11 upgrades. But they did not dance around the issue and helped me to resolve it. Although I don’t exactly what we did, I have tried to provide enough clues that someone else could benefit from my misfortune. Or perhaps I will be the beneficiary should this happen again.

Reference and related

My praise for the HP Pavilion Aero notebook.

Consumer Interest

Consumer Tech: HP Pavilion Aero laptop review


I am very pleased with my online purchase of an HP lsptop. So I am sharing my experience here. Believe it or not, I did not, unfortunately, receive anything for this endorsement! I simply am thrilled with the product. I heartily recommend this laptop to others if it is similarly configured.


Requirements are never made in the abstract, but represent a combination of what is possible and what others offer.

  • laptop
  • 13″ diagonal screen
  • lightweight
  • “fast,” whatever that means
  • future-proof, if at all possible
  • distinctive (you’ll see what that means in a second)
  • durable
  • no touch-screen!! (hate them)
  • Windows 11 Home Edition
  • under $1200
  • 1 TB of storage space
  • SSD
  • HP brand
What I got

I used to be a fan of Dell until I got one a few years back in which the left half of the keyboard went dead. It seems that problem was not so uncommon when you would do a search. Also my company seems to much more on the HP bandwagon than the Dell one, and they generally know what they are doing.

I remember buying an HP Pavilion laptop in November 2017. It was an advertised model which had the features I sought at the time, including Windows 7, 512 GB SSD disk. Surely, with the inexorable improvements in everything, wouldn’t you have thought that in the intervening five years, 1 TB would be commonplace, even on relatively low-end laptop models? For whatever reason, that upgrade didn’t happen and even five years later, 1 TB is all but unheard of on sub $1000 laptops. I guess everyone trusts the cloud for their storage. I work with cloud computing every day. But I want the assurance of having my photos on my drive, and not exclusively owned by some corporation. And we have lots of photos. So our Google Drive is about 400 GB. So with regards to storage, future-proof for me means room to grow for years, hence, 1 TB.

My company uses HP Elitebooks. They have touchscreens which I never use and are more geared towards business uses. Not only do I dislike touchscreens (you’re often touching them unintentionally), but they add weight and draw power. So not having one – that’s a win-win.

So since so few cheap laptops offer 1 TB standard, I imagined, correctly, that HP would have a configurator. The model which supports this is the HP Pavilion Aero. I configured a few key upgrades, all of which are worthwhile.

I configued a model which has:

  • 13.3″ screen
  • 1 TB SSD disk
  • OLED WQXGA screen (2600 x 1600 pixels)
  • Windows 11 Home Edition
  • AMD Ryzen 7 5825U (up to 4.5 GHz, 16 MB L3 cache, 8 cores, 16 threads) + AMD Radeon Graphics + 8 GB onboard
  • pale rose gold trim

The screen size and the fact of running Windows 11 are not upgrades, everything else on the above list is. Some, like the cpu, a bit pricey. But my five-year-old laptop, which runs fine, by the way, is EOL because Microsoft refuses to support its cpu for Windows 11 upgrade. I’m hoping when I write my five year lookback in 2028 the same does not happen to this laptop!

I especially like the pale rose gold trim. Why? When you go to a public place such as an airport, your laptop does not look like everyone else’s.

We also want to carry this laptop around. So another benefit is that it’s one of the lightest laptops around, for its size. Again, a touchscreen would have been heavier.

Of course the Aero contains microphone, built-in speakers, but no ethernet port (I’m a little leery about that). Only two USB ports, plus a USB-C port and full-sized hdmi port.

One usage beef I have is that it supposedly has a back-lit keyboard, but I’ve never seen it turn on.

My company has a coupon code for a roughly four percent discount – not huge, but every bit helps. Shipping is free. But to get the discount I had to talk to a human being to place the order, which is a good idea anyway for a purchase of this magnitude. She carefully reviewed the order with me multiple times. She commended me on my choice to upgrade to the OLED display, which gave me a good feeling.

Unexpected features

I wasn’t really looking for it, but there it is, a fingerprint scanner(!) in order to do a Windows Hello verification. I did not set it up. I guess it could also do a facial recognition as well (that’s what I use at work for Windows Hello for Business), but I also didn’t try that.

I think there’s a mini stereo output but maybe no microphone input? Of course get a USB microphone and you’re all good…


Price as configured above and with my company coupon code applied was $1080. I think that’s much better than a similarly equipped Surface tablet though I honestly didn’t do any real comparisons since I wanted to go HP from the get-go.


I bought a new HP Pavilion Aero laptop. It’s only been a month but I am very pleased with it so far. I configured it the with upgrades important to me since no off-the-shelf model has adequate storage capacity at the sub $1000 price point where I am.

I recommend this configuration for others. I think it’s really a winning combo. I have – I know this is hard to believe – not been compensated in any way for this glowing review! See my site – no ads? That shows you this is a different kind of web site, the kind that reflects the ideals of the Internet when it was conceived decades ago as an altruistic exchange of ideas, not an overly commercialized hellscape.

Since I saw this laptop was a winner I decided to give it away to a loved one, and now I’m back on that five-year-old HP Pavilion laptop!

References and related

HP Pavilion Aero Customize and Buy

I resolved a big issue which occurred after a couple months in which the Mediatek WiFi adapter was no longer seen by the OS.

Consumer Interest Consumer Tech

Consumer tech: Android phone tip of the day


My wife was stuck while using the WW app on her Samsung A51 smartphone. She needed to lookup a nearby “studio.” We’ve all seen these forms – you enter a zipcode and up pops their nearby locations. But in this case there was a problem. No keyboard was popping up! Instead the bottom of the screen below the search field was filled with some blather which we could not get rid of to reveal the presumably hidden software keyboard.

The (kludge) solution

Please note that I am a specialist in doing things the wrong way that manage to get it done. I noticed the field still permitted long touch, and hence paste (from the clipboard). So I told her to enter the zipcode into another app such as Evernote, copy that text into the clipboard, return to the WW app and paste it into that field.

And do you know – that actually worked!


So if you’re in a jam and just need to fill out a field on your Android phone but your software keyboard isn’t appearing, a way out is to paste the desired content from another app such as Evernote or Onenote.

References and related

I use this one all the time: find my phone – no BS apps, just the straight-up Google URL for this built-in service.

Consumer Interest Consumer Tech Uncategorized

Screen Mirroring to Your Smart TV

With the advancements in technology, there are now many features that allow for seamless connection between devices using wireless connections. One of the things that allow this is smart TVs. Currently, the market for them is dominated by South Korean company Samsung. 39% of all sales come from them, which is a huge number in comparison to the 19% from LG and 9.3% from Sony.

There are also devices you can attach to your traditional TV to give it the functions of a smart one, so you won’t have to spend too much to upgrade. With this kind of TV, you can do many different things like stream from platforms like Netflix or Hulu, or even mirror the screen of a mobile device.

What is screen mirroring?

Screen mirroring is basically the ability to project what is on one device to a TV display. This is normally done through the internet and is comparable to connecting a laptop to a monitor using an HDMI cable. As mentioned earlier, there are different ways you can do this. Some TVs have built-in software that allows you to do this, while some use different hardware attachments.

Examples of these accessories are the Amazon Firestick, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast. The last two are some of the most popular ones on the market right now and they both have their own pros and cons. For those already in the Apple ecosystem, using the attachment from the same company will make connecting them easier. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative that can work on almost any device, the Chromecast is your best bet.

These accessories work because of their internet connection. The circuitry is specially designed to deliver signal integrity which ensures that digital and analog signals do not become distorted during propagation. Moreover, this guarantees that the signal can be recovered if temporarily lost, and that screen mirroring is smooth and won’t experience delays.

How to mirror your screen

Make sure your devices are connected to the same internet source

As the feature heavily relies on connection, the only way you can display what is on your other device is by being on the same internet source. Go to the settings of both of your gadgets and connect them to the same wi-fi line. This will make them identifiable to each other and make mirroring possible.

Read the instructions

If you are using a TV box or tool like the Apple TV or Chromecast, make sure to read the connection instructions on the manual. For example, the former requires you to use AirPlay and the manual should teach you which buttons to press on your phone or laptop. For the latter device, you might need a third-party app like the Google Home One to be able to get the accessory to mirror. Be sure to check the instructions given so you can make it a more seamless experience.

Check your Wi-Fi’s integrity

Because mirroring heavily relies on your internet, if the integrity (or speed) that your Wi-Fi is giving out is not enough or lacks bandwidth, you will have a lagging experience. Before you start, try to check the speed of your internet to be sure that it is strong enough. You can simply go on speed test sites on your browser. A good speed would be at least 25mbps, so if it is lower than that, you might not be able to connect or mirror easily.

Screen mirroring is just one-way technology has made life more connected. Gone are the days when other wires and connections were needed. The internet now enables you to perform tasks like projecting from a smaller device to a bigger one, hassle-free.

References and related

Some Firestick problems I’ve encountered are discussed in this post.

Consumer Interest Consumer Tech Network Technologies Raspberry Pi

Consumer Tech: Home Internet stopped working


We woke up yesterday to no Internet. The usual remedies consumers go through did nothing to resolve the issue. What to do?

The details – November 25, 2020

The usual restarts or my router and the cable modem did not work. I plugged in my work laptop directly to the cable modem for some quick tests but that did not work.

I plugged my work-issued VPN router directly to the cable modem and it did not pick up an IP and re-establish the tunnel.

When I logged into my router I saw that its WAN IP was listed as, which means none at all.

I called the ISP twice. Both time they said they could “see” my modem, and they tried to restart it on their end, but that did not seem to do anything at all, based on the constant status LEDs (see picture below). I got my service visit moved up from Dec 11th to Dec 2nd, but still that would mean a week without Internet – not so great when three people are relying on it for their work.

I rebooted the cable modem a couple times at least. Nothing changed.

Then I started some research on quickie alternatives. Ask a friend from work for a spare Cradlepoint air card? They’re already out on vacation. Get a Chinese-made unlocked hotspot with pre-purchased data? Seems fishy, and ultimately expensive. Verizon brand hotspot? We had a borrowed one. Very finicky. And no ethernet ports.

Raspberry Pi + DIY approach?

At one point in the evening, convinced I would have to wait days for for a visit from the cable guy, I rigged up a spare Raspberry Pi to act as a router between a mobile hotspot (a companion tablet to a Verizon phone) and my Linksys router. Why bother? Why not just use the hotspot directly? Mostly because it’s a pain in the rear to reprogram all those Internet of Things devices one has in ones home these days, notably the several Echo Dots, but as well, a wireless printer, a few laptops, Firesticks, tablets, etc. With this approach I keep the WiFi SSID as it was for all those devices. And, it sort of worked! At least I got one Echo Dot to work. I didn’t push my luck. This stuff consumes a lot of data, even when “idle.”

To be continued…

Linksys WRT1200AC status lights – when healthy!
Cable Modem tatus lights – when operating normally

But I am pretty good at troubleshooting. What I know that less experienced people may not is that all the testing I’ve done to that point was not ironclad proof of failure of the cable modem. I know the traditional advice of old is to hook up a laptop directly to the ethernet port and work with it that way. Furthermore the cable company support said that my status lights were reading normally. So, when I tested my work laptop? Are you kidding? That thing has so many problems when I switch between SSIDs due to some new security software – it loves to display the Globe in the system tray, and the only recourse is to reboot. That’s what I was seeing, but notice I said a quickie test? I did not have time to do that reboot and all that. And that work-issued VPN router? I don’t know how that thing really works either. Never having set it up that way I did not trust reading too much into its results (which was essentially an orange status light instead of the usual white).

So when I had more time in the evening, I hooked up a home laptop which I know should work. After a cable modem reboot in fact I did get an IP and could surf the Internet. That was a glimmer of hope. So I put my router back in place. Still it did not pick up an WAN IP address. Still reading for its IP.

Then I put the laptop back, writing down the IP, subnet mask and default gateway. Then I put my router back, switched its WAN mode from DHCP to fixed IP, putting on the exact IP address the laptop had picked up, with correct subnet mask and default gateway. Still it was not working. When the router is not working the WAN status light is sort of orange-ish. It’s white (pictured above) when the WAN link is communicating.

I decided the fault should lie more with my router than anywhere else, and since it wasn’t working and no number of power cycles was changing that situation, I decided that a factory reset is the thing to try. The last thing I could try. I noted the exact name and passwords of my SSIDs, held the reset button for 15 seconds until the status lights flicked out, and let it start up. It went through a start-up process, which i saw after connecting to its default IP of It was clear it was not seeing the cable modem at the point where it should, but it had some very specific advice to try: power off cable modem, wait two minutes, power it back on, and then it would try again. And that did work! Yeah!

What may have precipitated this

My local cable company was recently bought by a much bigger company. I know for a fact what my WAN IP used to be, and I see it has changed. They now draw from a giant pool of IPs – a /14 in CIDR notation – that’s 262,000 addresses – that belongs to the new owner. So I believe the problem occurred due to a poor implementation of the dhcp protocol within my router, or a poor interplay between my router’s DHCP client and the ISP’s DHCP server. But I can’t research that line of troubleshooting because the ISP’s DHCP policies would require a lot of time-consuming experimentation on my part to reverse engineer based on observed behaviour under different conditions. And I would need an open source DHCP client – but I have the Raspberry Pi running dnsmasq for that, so that end could gather all the needed client information.

Prior to this acquisition I would tend to keep the same WAN IP for years – that’s how stable it was.

Another approach

Very germane to this topic is the fact that my neighbor down the street experienced his own Internet outage the day after I did! His solution was to buy a better cable modem. I did not know you could do that – I thought they were proprietary. He also saw his router with the WAN address. And his approach also worked. This makes me less sure my router was really at fault – maybe Altice screwed up their DHCP service for half a day.


Unusual for me, I’m going to write the conclusion before writing the tedious part which is the full explanation in the middle.

By the end of the day I got the Internet working. After isolating the problem to my home router, the Linksys WRT1200AC, and determining that any amount of power cycling was not clearing things up, a factory reset did the trick! The cable modem and my cable Internet service was fine all along.

References and related

How to turn your Raspberry Pi into a router which shares your hotspot with your home router.

The Linksys WRT1200AC is no longer sold. It looks like the newer version is the WRT1900AC – it even looks identical. It’s a good router. I know there are fancier solutions out there, but there are also worse ones as well, so I can only give my qualified endorsement:

DHCP and CIDR notation are both described in great detail in their respective Wikipedia articles.

Consumer Interest

Consumer Tech: how to wake the screen of a Samsung Galaxy A51


You’re talking on your Samsung Galaxy A51 when your screen goes dark and you want to hang up. What do you do?

My new A51 didn’t seem to respond to pressure applied to the bottom of the screen in order to wake it the way my old S9 did. I did a quick Internet search and just found all sorts of stuff, most of it oriented towards older models. And I am too lazy to read the user manual. So I experimented a little.

The answer

I watched someone just hold their thumb on the bottom of the screen (or whichever finger was used for unlocking the phone). The screen comes on and it unlocks it with some luck.

In my experience, tapping twice in rapid succession with the thumb on the lower part of the screen also wakes the screen from its blacked-out, energy-saving, OFF mode. I liked the wake-on-pressure method of my old phone better, but that simply doesn’t work.

If you want to get good at the double-tap method, try holding your thumb down on the second tap so it can also read your thumbprint and unlock the screen as well as wake it.

Answer 2

If the phone has been sitting stationary, such as on a table, it suffices to pick it up in order to wake it.

Answer 3 – preferred method

This is really a generalization of Answer 2. In a big, sweeping gesture, with phone in hand and arm holding phone by your knee, raise phone upwards from low to high, until it’s facing you, then keep it steady. It should light up on its own within half a second of being stationary in front of you.

And after you’ve trained yourself, skip the big sweeping gesture and just tilt the phone up and hold it vertically in front of you.

Answer 4 – most reliable

Click the power button. On my phone with its thick case I don’t enjoy this method. However, for whatever reason, this seems to be the only method that works after the screen goes stone cold black during a phone call, which is annoying.

Wireless charging

And wireless charging? No longer an option. Not that I bought a car (Toyota Prius Four, 2016) with a built-in wireless charger which I used every day with my previous phone.

Consumer Interest Inquiring Minds

Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Do you save energy by dimming LED bulbs


I’ve got my Philips Hue light bulb working with my Amazon Alexa. It’s an older 860 lumens bulb. I also have a voltmeter. So I went through different intensities, recording the power draw for each. The results are in the table below.

Level (%)Power (Watts)
0 (off)0.3**
Power draw of LED light bulb at various brightness set by Alexa voice command.

So above 60% or so the relationship looks exponential. 50% seems like an outlier.

*By observation, the lowest lighting you can get from your bulbs is 5%.

**Unexpected finding – smartbulbs are vampire devices

I didn’t originally measure the power draw when “off.” You don’t think to do that. Then I gave it some more thought and had an aha moment – the bulb can only be smart if it is always listening for commands. And that, in turn, must create a power draw when off. A quick measurement and sure enough, confirmed. Though very small – 0.3 watts – it is not nothing. A typical single-family home has over a hundred bulbs. If they were all smartbulbs, it would add up… I believe small draw devices – typically those power adapters for cell phones – are called vampire devices.


So we have a very non-linear relationship here. I probably should plot the current draw as well. But, you definitely can save energy by lowering the intensity – quite a lot. But LED bulbs are drawing very little power anyway, so unless you have bunch of them, why bother?

My second conclusion – a finding I didn’t expect – is that even when off these bulbs are consuming a bit of power. It’s not a lot, 0.3 watts, but it’s something to keep in mind when planning your smartbulb deployment. So, large arrays of smartbulbs? Probably not such a smart idea.

Consumer Interest Security

Can you go from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 in O’Hare without going through the security lines again?


Yes, at least if you walk. Not sure about other transportation options. Count on about 13 minutes for the walk.

Not sure why this information is so hard to find… Sometimes you land at one terminal and have to take a puddle jumper to a regional airport out of another and you’d really like to know is 50 minutes or whatever gonna be enough?

This is probably true for most major airports. It seems for instance that at Newark Liberty you can also move between terminals A, B and C without going through security once again. I thought JFK may have been an exception to this rule, but I’m not sure…