Maximize Refresh Rate for 4K Monitor – A LearnByBlogging Quick Tip

I recently bought a 4K monitor (LG – 27″ IPS LED 4K UHD FreeSync Monitor model 27UD68) with 4x the HD (1K High Definition 1920×1080) resolution or 3840×2160 resolution. Upon its arrival, I was so excited to set it up and hook it up to my computer, which I already checked before ordering that its embedded graphic controller can support 3840×2160 resolution based on the Intel CPU Description by searching for the CPU’s “ark.” For example, my computer has an Intel i5-4590 CPU. I googled and saw my CPU can support 3840×2160 resolution based on Intel’s ARK here, it should support 3840×2160 without any problem.

After plugging the DisplayPort to HDMI cable that connected the DisplayPort to the computer and HDMI port to the monitor, I saw the wonderful 4K display. Everything looked smaller but with a high resolution, just like Apple’s Retina Display. The only problem was that my computer appeared to be not very responsive to my mouse and scrolling actions. It’s very annoying. I almost wanted to switch back to my original HD 1K monitor.

Then I looked closely at the graphic display, I saw that the display was only running 29 Hz refresh rate. I tried to force the refresh rate 60 Hz but it wouldn’t let me, complaining that it exceeded the maximum bandwidth for the port. After examining the spec closely, the HDMI port supports only HDMI 1.4, which according to Wiki page, can support up to 30 Hz at 3840×2160. In other words, the refresh rate limitation is on the HDMI protocol, not the CPU nor the system. Then I checked again and saw the DisplayPort can support up to 3840×2160 @60Hz. I immediately changed the cable from DisplayPort to DisplayPort. The computer immediately register 59 Hz automatically. Wow! It made a huge difference on how I perceived the responsiveness of the display. It’s like day and night.

My key takeaways:
1. The display refresh rate has a lot to do with how you perceive the responsiveness of your computer.
2. Always check if your computer or laptop can support the display mode your new monitor is capable of running. Check with the CPU spec by googling the specific CPU model name.
3. Don’t count on the HDMI port to support 4K monitor at 60 Hz unless it’s capable of HDMI 2.0. Use DisplayPort to get the maximum resolution at a high refresh rate.

Comcast Login Error when Watching AMC Episodes – How I Fixed It – a LearnByBlogging Quick Tip

For the last few weeks, I have trying to watch my favorite AMC shows like “The Walking Dead” on my computer. Typically, when you click on Watch Episode which AMC allows you to watch the full episodes within 70 days of the showing, it will ask for your cable provider. See below:

My cable provider is Comcast. When I selected Xfinity (the Comcast proxy), the browser would hang for a few seconds then came out with a comcast login failure. This would happen when you select Xfinity, nothing else. I’ve tried for weeks without success and googled around without a clue how to fix it.

How did I fix it? I just logged into Comcast Xfinity site. It prompted me to identify the name of device. I entered “My Computer,” then I was able to search and watch the “Walking Dead” program. Afterward, I could now go to the AMC site, select my episode, and select Xfinity. Voila! I could now watch any episode at will.

Book Review: “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This book is written as letter from the author, Ta-Nehisi Coates, to his son, Samori. He shared his experience of being brought up in the poor black neighborhood being bombarded with street violence, to his college days in Howard University and finally to the present of being a journalist and a great book writer.

The book is well written and reads like poems or songs, the quality that make reading this book so rewarding. It’s a relatively short but an impactful book especially when the violence between blacks and police gather lots of news these days. Personally, I don’t think I can truly understand the plight of the black Americans and the plundering of their bodies as I didn’t grow up here in this country under the same circumstance. But being an immigrant myself, I think I felt the same kind of helplessness as the author did: being discriminated and talked down when I was younger.

The author had a satirical view of the Dream, the peaceful changing of the society that Martin Luther King spelled many years ago. It’s the “Dream of acting white, of talking white, of being white.”

This is a good book if you’re not a black and want to know what it’s like to be brought up as a poor black in a bad neighborhood. I listened to the audiobook twice and re-read the physical book to enjoy the poetic prose throughout the book.

A few good quotes:

“Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered.”

“You have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face and the hounds are always at your heels… you do not have the privilege of living in ignorance of this essential fact.”

Part I: is about the author’s upbringing all the way to attending the Mecca, Howard University, a renowned college attended mostly by blacks.

Part II:
The author describes the tragedy of Prince Jones, shot by a black police, Carlton Jones, from PG County (Prince George County), a notorious place where police brutality is rampant. Also, he went through his post-college years of getting a “writing” job after following his wife to Brooklyn, next to which is Manhattan where the “master of galaxy,” the rich white folks live.

He talked about his encounter with a white woman who pushed his boy in the subway and the subsequent confrontations with the white folks.

Then he talked about bringing his son to the civil war and described how much of the civil war was about the slaves. Next, he brought up the story is a black man being shot because he was playing loud music.

His first trip to Paris allowed him to draw a comparison between a foreigner in France and a “foreigner” in his own country. He spoke the shooting of the Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO for his son being similar to the shooting of Prince Jones for the author.

Part III:
The author ended the book with a visit to the mother of Prince Jones, Mable Jones, who rose up from poverty to achieve personal success in the medical field as Radiology physician. He came away from the visit with a solemnly apocalyptic view of the future for blacks in this country, with the ghettos and prisons in the background.

If you are a black or a “Dreamer” in this country, this book may paint a gloomy picture for your future but yet hopeful that someone like Coates took the courage to speak out about the injustice for blacks. If you are a white, you may gather from the book that you are a privileged group at the expense of the others, especially blacks. And if you’re none of the above like me, then you should count your blessing and struggle for the harmonious society where all people can get along and live happily in this great country of ours.

Sewer Backup at Home – What I Learned

A couple of weeks ago, I was woken up by the gurgling/bubbling noise from my bathroom toilet as the washer was started and running before going to bed. I noted it as some sort of dream and forgot about it. Then a couple of days later, I noticed the same phenomenon when the washer was running again, this time during the day time while I was in my den and wide awake.

Not good. The sewer was backed up!

I tried snaking from the toilet, from the washer sink and then from the cleanout to the side of the house. Still not good. In fact, I made it worse, now the toilet was consistently backed up and almost overflowing.

At this point, I was pretty exhausted and I figured it’s time to call the pro. It was Sunday afternoon. I called several rooters/plumbers and none of them could make it the same day. They were so busy that the next appointment was going to be a few days later. Fortunately, one of the plumbers suggested that it’s mostly likely the “mainline” being backed up. and he suggested that I check if there is cleanout near the sidewalk, hinting that if it’s backed up there, the city may be responsible for taking care of the problem because it’s between my house and the sewer running under the city street – a responsibility of the city, as long as the cleanout is within 5 feet of the sidewalk.

So I checked and there was a cleanout that was overflowing to my front yard and it’s within 2 feet of the side walk.

I immediately called the Cupertino City Sanitation Service Department. Sure enough, they said they can check it out within 30 minutes as they were doing some work a few blocks away. The guy told us to stop using the sewer (no toilet, washing and other things that might drain).

About 30 minutes later, the city sanitation person showed up and saw the situation and said that the contractor, Roto Rooter, will come over when he’s done with the previous job. He started scooping up the water to his 5-gal bucket. The Roto Rooter guy showed up within 15 minutes and started the snaking process. But they first wet vacuumed the whole cleanout and opened up the cleanout that has a ball over the tube and a Darthvader-helmet-like cap over it. As soon as he punch through the first root-like obstruction, the sewer water flew smoothly. He eventually cleaned up the opening and pulled a carrot-like root (see picture) out of the tube. As it turned out, the root of the tree near the sidewalk was spreading into the cleanout to sip the sewer water – probably a result of years of drought in our area.
Pulling Root
ThecRoto Rooter guy snaked it one more time to be sure and finished the job within 30 minutes. I flushed both toilets and ran water in the tub for a few minutes to clean out all the accumulated residues in the drain pipe. And it was done without costing me a dime!

A couple of days later, the city came back with a camera-attached snake to look through the pipe and cited several code issues with my cleanout. See photos below on the existing cleanout vs the new standard cleanout design. Then a couple of days later, the city contracted with Roto Rooter to snake it one more time to be sure. Now, that’s tax dollars at work!

Here are what I learned:
– Bubbling in the toilet is most likely a mainline sewer backup. Check the cleanout closest to the street first.
– Snaking from inside the house for a mainline backup problem is not productive.
– The city is responsible for the mainline backup if the cleanout is backed up within 5 feet of the sidewalk.
– The modern cleanout design makes sewer backup much easier to remedy. The technology in human living environment continue to advance. It’s not your father’s sewer system any more.

Existing Cleanout Design:

New Cleanout Design:

Book Review: “The Art of Work” by Jeff Goins

The art of work is the lighthouse to those who are lost in finding meaning in their lives. This book will give you some hints how to find your ways. This book is also a guidepost to those who think they’ve achieved success and met their callings. This book will prod you to rise above it and continue to leave a legacy.

The author provide fitful examples to make his points. It’s wonderfully done. I came away so pumped up and convinced of working on my calling(s). I highly recommend this book. The book’s website is here.


The 7 Stages of finding your calling:

1. Awareness: Listening to your life
“The worst way to be happy is to try to be happy.” We need a reason to be happy. “A calling comes when we embrace the pain, not avoid it.” You must believe in that you’re called to something. To cultivate awareness, you must be willing to act, to step out and see what happens. Opportunities always come to those with open eyes. “You do know what your dream is. You’re just afraid to admit it!” Write down and note the significance of every major event in your life. It takes commitments. The risk of not committing is greater than the cost of making the wrong choice. Because when you fail, you learn. Walt Disney decided to become a cartoonist when he got injured and stayed at home for 2 weeks.

2. Apprenticeship: The teacher appears when the student least expects
Traditionally, it took 10 years to go from an apprentice to a “journeyman” to a master. You cannot master a craft on your own. Accidental apprenticeship are everywhere; you must listen to your life to recognize them. There lies Ginny Phang’s story in going from a unwed pregnant woman abandoned by her boyfriend and her own family to becoming a doula (pregnancy coach) and running her own business. Her story is a testament to the ability of human spirit to endure and the power of community. We never find a calling on our own; we all need help.

3. Practice: When trying isn’t good enough
Excellence is a matter of practice, not talent. “Even the most gifted people do not have what it takes to succeed without the right attitude and years of ‘deliberate’ and ‘deep’ (resulted in failures) practice.” 3 Requirements for “deliberate” practices: 1) Requires a context: time and energy from the individual as well as trainers, 2) Not “inherently motivating” activities – not enjoyable, 3) Cannot be done a very long time without leading to exhaustion – needs to push yourself to the point of sheer exhaustion. Often the only way to know the difference between a hobby and a calling is to put yourself through the crucible of painful practice. Accidental Apprenticeship is such that “long before a person is ready for his calling, life is preparing that person for the future through chance encounters and serendipitous experiences.” Seizing the “lucky” moment and doing something about it may be the difference.

4. Discovery
The process of finding and claiming your calling is a “journey,” like the bible story of Samuel, who had a “transcendental encounter” with God. The three stages: 1) hear it, 2) respond to it, 3) believe in it then leap or more like build bridges and keep moving toward something meaningful and life changing for yourself and the world.

5. Profession
On the way to meet your calling, you may encounter many failures when you’d need to “pivot.” Successful people and organizations like Groupon don’t succeed in spite of failure; they succeed because of it. “Pain is the great teacher and failure a faithful mentor.” Don’t turn a season of failure into a lifetime of failure by 1) recognize hardship as an opportunity to learn, 2) not to succeed in the wrong things, 3) be ready to make pivots along the way. Don’t ask “what if” but say “let’s.” Stop “dreaming” but start “doing.” Not all callings lead to successes or fame though.

6. Mastery
Living a “portfolio life” may be the way of the future. You don’t just have one job, you are all of these things that you do: fee work, salary work, home work, study work and gift work. Combining work, home, play and purpose in your portfolio life. “Mastery is something that goes beyond competence and skills. It means approaching one’s life as a creative work.” Stop trying to be famous and focus instead on trying to be successful. Try to reach the state of “flow” as Csikzentmihalyi described. Our responsibility is to use our gifts in challenging ways so that others can benefit – to be given away.

7. Legacy
Think of your work or calling as leaving a legacy to help others could make your work/calling more meaningful. No need to wait until your retirement. “Life has a funny way of teaching us that sometimes the most important stuff is the ordinary stuff. The smallest moments, the ones we think are insignificant, are the ones we will cherish the most.” Your calling is not about dong something good in the world but becoming someone good and letting that goodness impact the world around you. Success isn’t the final goal, legacy is. On the other hand, don’t let your calling consume you. Life is not a support system for your work; your work is a support system for your life. The author suggests to work hard and passionately, but acknowledge the limitation of what one life is capable of. In the end, success isn’t about what you do with your life but what you leave behind. Calling is about leaving a legacy that matters.

The book provides several questions and exercises in the appendix to help find your callings.

Honeywell Water Heater Thermostat Woe – How I Fixed It

I heard a scream from my wife in the shower, “No hot water! No hot water! What’s going on?!” Not good. This was 10pm two days ago. My first thought was that the water heater pilot light went out, based on my past experience. What else could it be? I checked that AO Smith Gas Water heater in the laundry room right away. The water heater comes with a sophisticated, advanced Honeywell Water Heater thermostat/valve that provides continuous monitoring of the water temperature and turning on and off the gas accordingly – all without battery. It uses a “thermopile” technology that converts thermal energy into electrical energy. It’s composed of serveral thermocouples connected in series to create roughly 350 mV of energy. What a nifty device!

Except when it’s not working.

I first tried resetting the module by turning it to off and re-start the pilot light by turning the dial to “Pilot”, holding down “Pilot” and push the spark igniter. The system kept coming back with 4 flashes. Based on the “Status Light Code,” it means “Temperature Exceeded.” It made sense as we had a heat wave recently. So I figured the system should reset itself once the over temperature condition goes away. I kept resetting the system without much success to get the gas burner to turn on again.

I googled around and came across this website by Tyler Tork. Wow, so many people had the same problem dating back to 2013. The problem is that the microcontroller inside the unit remembers the last “over-temp condition” and would not forget it. The recommended fix is to disconnect everything from the module for an hour and let the power dissipated to “flush” out the memory.

That sounded easy. I tried disconnecting it for 30 minutes. No go. 60 minutes: No go. I left it disconnected for overnight. Still no go. I even flushed some of water out to get the sediments out as it’s a source of heat barrier that contributes to overheating.

One of the people commented “shorting” everything on the little printed circuit board to really “short circuit” the memory cell, most likely the big capacitors. And that’s what I did, I figured I have nothing to lose as I would need to replace it if it didn’t work. So I removed the PCB (printed circuit board) from its housing by unscrewing the torx screw and snapping the PCB from the housing. Then I took a sheet of aluminum foil (an electricity conducting material) and touch all the various solder joints (silver-looking blobs) especially the big capacitors, which are the energy storage devices. See figures.
Honeywell PCB Bottom Side
Then I put it back to its housing and put everything back to its original positions. Turn on the pilot and hit the spark lighter. I first saw the LED flashed 7 times, which means “Gas Controller Valve Failure.” Doesn’t sound good. Then I proceeded to dial it up to temperature setting A. Immediately, the burner turns on and we have a lift off! After a minute or so, the LED started blinking once and paused and blinking once again. This means “Normal Operation.” We’re back in business now. I just saved $110 (Walmart’s price) for the module and enduring days of suffering through cold showers and complaints from my family members. Viva DIY!

Learn by Blogging (and Sharing) – Derek Tsai's Personal Blog