Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Discovery Lake Trails After the Fire

It has been about 8 months since the fire devoured the forests on top of the Discovery Hills. The trails leading to Double Peak park have been closed since the fire last June. Now finally the trails are open again after they replaced the burnt fences, see the picture.
As you can see the trees are growing again. Sections of the old fence are still intact and were kept in their place, but the burnt ones were replaced as is obvious in the picture. It was a blessing that they repaired this trail because it is one of the best trails around. So last Sunday I hiked on it up to the point where the loop starts. The loop is a 10 km trail that goes around through Double Peak Park. I took a right at the loop and reached the top of the ridge where I could see a view of the ocean from there.
The path that I took can be seen on the map to the right. It took 1 hour and 38 minutes round trip and the total climb was 1057 ft as can be seen on the data of the map. It is a very nice climb and the weather was fantastic. The only concern I have now is that recently a mountain lion was spotted in the area. I was encouraged by the many hikers who were on the trail during the weekend which makes it quite unlikely that the mountain lion would come near us humans in large numbers. It is not advised to hike alone, especially that I know that coyotes thrive there as well; I took a picture of one from my window once. Coyotes should not attack humans, at least not adults, but who knows, I heard there are new breeds who do attack humans. In any case, that is why it is advised not to hike alone. So as long as there are many hikers in the weekend it should be safe.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Sound Surround System

My sound surround system has been completed finally, and as usual there were many little hurdles here and there in setting it up, so this post summarizes all the issues I encountered and how they were fixed. It all started with the installed Bose speakers that were already there in place hung nicely on the walls. There are five of them; in the front there are center, right and left speakers, and in the back there are left surround and right surround.
We had a Sony 42" smart TV and an old Toshiba DVD. First step was to buy an audio/video receiver (AVR). I chose the Onkyo TX-NR353 which costs about $430 including tax. This receiver has WiFi and Bluetooth connections, and is 5 channel x 100 Watts. I also bought an active subwoofer, which I chose to be BIC America F-12, with 475 W peak power (150 W average) and 12" subwoofer. This subwoofer has an LFE jack which makes it easy to connect and calibrate within the AV receiver. Setting up the AV receiver was easy. I connected the cable box to the receiver via HDMI and connected the receiver's output HDMI to the smart TV. Immediately I got the cable TV working through the sound surround system. Next I calibrated the sound system by placing the provided microphone to the point of listening on the sofa and running the Onkyo calibration program. Next I connected the FM antenna and set up a few FM channels, and listened to the FM reception on the sound surround system. Worked fine. Then I connected the receiver to the WiFi network, and was able to listen to Pandora and Spotify through the surround system. All good so far. In order to set up the video streaming from the smart TV (such as Netflix, YouTube etc.) I assigned CD/TV setting, and set the Audio Return Channel (ARC) to Auto, so that the TV sound goes through the receiver on to the sound surround system when in video streaming mode. Now Netflix and YouTube sound go through the sound surround system fine. However, there was a glitch in the sound, every few seconds I could hear sound dropout for a second, which was very annoying. I was able to fix this problem by changing the Fixed Mode to PCM in the Source Input of the receiver's Setup menu. No more sound dropout in video streaming. This was fortuitous because I did not have to buy a video streaming device such as Roku-3 or Apple TV. Last step was to connect the old DVD player. I took the video components from the DVD player into the receiver, and out of the receiver to the TV. I took the sound from the DVD sound into the Aux input of the receiver, and assigned this setting to Aux. When playing the DVD player, I chose the input of the TV from HDMI to Video Components, and chose Aux on the receiver. Picture was great and sound came through the surround system fine. I paired my smart phone to the receiver, so I was able to stream music from the iTunes library to the receiver and listen to it through the sound surround system. That completed the installation. A great working system that turns movies from Netflix into a real theater experience.