I can’t register my car because of an outstanding recall

by phuoc 0 Comments

Well, this is certainly interesting and a first for me.  Yesterday I received a notice in the mail from the California DMV.  At first I didn’t think anything of it since I’ve received so many of the same letters for the past 15 years.  It was just your standard annual vehicle registration notice.  This one was for my Lexus GS350 and upon first glance I thought, okay, I have a few months to take care of this… just like the numerous times before.  As I went to scan in the notice however, this little bit caught my attention:

DMV Vehicle Registration Renewal Notice

DMV Vehicle Registration Renewal Notice with a recall note.


I’ve never seen this one before.  I was aware of the recall; it was for the ELF Fuel Pressure Sensor.  Lexus had sent a letter to me about it and I had it done just the week before.  I’ve received other recall notices in the past and have always taken care of them but I cannot ever remember a time when a vehicle recall prevented me from registering my vehicle.

I for one whole heartedly support this new effort.  I think that due to vehicle ownership changing hands all the time that a lot of vehicles out there are not taken care of properly.  This is a huge safety issue and I’m glad that states are beginning to be pro-active about it.  My only issue now is to figure out what this Correction Certificate business is all about.  I have the repair receipt but that doesn’t sound like it.  I’ll be reaching out to my dealer today to see what the next steps are.

Re-edit of my Phantom 3 Maiden Flight

I’ve been busy figuring out how to work Apple’s Final Cut Pro X after using Sony Vegas on Windows for so long.  I think I’ve finally got the hang of how things are done in FCPX.  At least I’ve figured it out enough to make a short intro that I’ll be using with all of my videos and how to color grade with it using FXFactory Pro.  So here’s the 2nd version of my Phantom 3 Professional maiden flight video.  The quality on my computer’s really good since all of my sources are 4K.  Somehow it looks a bit shitty on Youtube… scratch that… it looks shitty on Youtube.  But at least you get the gist of it.  I wish they wouldn’t mess with uploaded videos.  Perhaps that’s why people prefer Vimeo for high quality videos.  Anyways, let me know what you guys think.

TCPBlock – A good alternative to Little Snitch

I needed a good firewall program for my Mac and have heard from pretty much everyone that Little Snitch is the way to go.  I just can’t fathom paying $70 for the family license for something so basic, especially when Mac OS X comes with its own firewall that does pretty much everything you need.  The only challenge is that firewall is command line based and it’s not easy to use.

After some searching, I stumbled upon a free alternative called TCPBlock.  It’s a lightweight, loadable kernel module that does exactly what I needed it to do: block outgoing connections to the Internet by application.  The interface is easy to use and it takes just a few clicks to set everything up on my system.  It may lack all of the bells and whistles of a paid program but dammit, it works.  It does exactly what I needed and the price can’t be beat.  So if you’re looking for an alternative to Little Snitch, give TCPBlock a try.

Here’s the interface.  It’s clean and simple.  You access it via your Mac’s System Preferences:

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 4.34.08 PM

Homemade Smoothies

I love making smoothies at home.  It’s so much more economical and you can customize it exactly as you’d like it.  Through trial and error, I’ve found the best smoothie base: it’s the Mango Nectar from Trader Joe’s.  For $3.99 you get a 64 fl. oz. bottle that can easily make 6-8 smoothies.  Even though it’s Mango Nectar, I find that it doesn’t impart too strong of a mango taste for other fruit flavored smoothies.  For example, when I make a strawberry smoothie and use this, it doesn’t taste like a mango-strawberry smoothie… it’s definitely more strawberry flavored in that case.  The reason I love this base is that it doesn’t separate on you.  I’ve used other fruit juices and I’ve found that they tend to separate after you let the smoothie sit for just 10 minutes.  Here’s what it looks like:



For the fruit, I buy frozen fruits from either Trader Joe’s or from Walmart under its Great Value brand.  Walmart is definitely more affordable but I swear the frozen fruit from Trader Joe’s makes for a better tasting smoothie.  I’m not sure if that’s subliminal or not but that’s my experience.  I would swear that they all get their frozen fruit from a common supplier, despite what Trader Joe’s marketing will say, but somehow they do taste different.  I have a few bags of frozen fruit in the freezer from Walmart and as soon as they are out I’m probably going to get the Trader Joe’s brand.  I usually get the mango, pineapple, strawberries and tropical fruit blends.  They tend to make the best smoothies.  I will sometimes use other fruits as well like frozen cherries but they can be tart… a spoonful of sugar will fix that issue!  Blend on folks!

Samsung Smart TV’s and Netflix Profiles

I currently have a 40″ Samsung Smart TV that I bought in the summer of 2013, so it’s not that old.  It’s one of Samsung’s Smart TV with the Smart Hub so I can do things like watch Youtube, Netflix, etc.  The best feature by far is the USB port where I can connect a USB drive directly and play my digital movies from there.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  My gripe though is with the Netflix app.  It doesn’t support the Profiles feature that Netflix has implemented.  My niece & nephew watches my account when they’re over and they have all kinds of kids’ programming.  When Profiles were introduced, it was a godsend.  I could keep their viewing history, list, preferences, etc. separate from mine.  This works fine on things like the iPhones and iPads, the WDTV Live, or the computer itself.  But on the Samsung TV, Profiles is not supported.  In my research, it appears that Netflix is responsible for updating the apps, not Samsung.  Samsung is only responsible for pushing out the updates.  I’ve seen plenty of Smart Hub updates on my TV, but so far no Profiles support which is a huge disappointment.

On the other hand, that USB direct connect feature is awesome.  I can get one of those Western Digital portable USB drives and connect it directly.  These drives come in up to 2 TB configuration these days and because they’re portable drives without a separate power cable, they’re super convenient to plug into the TV.  With 2 TB, I can put a ton of movies onto this thing.  As a portable drive, the performance is not up to par with other USB drives but you hardly notice it when copying movies; it might be a tad slower.  For viewing though, it’s not an issue.  The portability completely trumps the performance.  What awesome for me is how many different formats the Samsung TV supports.  I have most of my movies in the MKV format as I think it’s the most versatile.  It can hold subtitles, different audio streams, attached thumbnail images, etc.  I do wish the Samsung supported thumbnail view though; but that’s just a small quibble.  It has played most of the major formats I’ve thrown at it.  This is pretty awesome if you ask me.

I love it so much that my newest TV is a 55″ 4K TV from Samsung in the hopes that it has the same Smart features.  It should.  I take delivery next Friday and cannot wait to get it up on the wall.  It’ll be a nice addition to be able to watch my 4K Phantom 3 Videos.  🙂

Eu Schengen Zone Visa

by phuoc 0 Comments

My wife is from Vietnam so she needs a Schengen short stay visa to visit the EU, even though she already has her U.S. Permanent Resident card or green card.  Apparently the green card is of no use for traveling and is used only for returning to the U.S.  It does help in the visa application process though since it shows you have ties to the U.S. and so on.

So today we made the drive from San Diego to the French Consulate in West Los Angeles to apply for her visa.  The process went very well and we should be receiving the visa back in about a week.  The experience was completely different at the Italian consulate last month though.  They were a lot more picky on the required documents and that didn’t go well at all.  We’re back home now and are looking forward to a nice weekend.

Microsoft Outlook (.com)

I have to say that I’m impressed with everything that Microsoft is doing lately.  Under Satya Nadella they seem to really have their act together.  I’ve read somewhere that Steve Ballmer should be thanked for this as he laid a lot of the groundwork to make that happen but somehow I have a feeling that’s going to go unnoticed.  Back to the topic at hand though.  Microsoft is doing some great things but I want to talk about the new Microsoft Outlook… especially Outlook.com.

Wow… it has come a long ways since Hotmail.  I haven’t signed in for a while but I must say I love how clean it looks and how responsive.  The one thing that bugs me are the ads they show but I guess you can’t escape them these days.  To be fair I do not have an ad blocker on my work machine due to company policies but I’ll check back home and see if the ads are gone.  The whole layout is very minimal and designed to look almost like a desktop mail client.  Sure, it’s not anything close to the desktop version of Outlook (at least the version I’m seeing under Office 2013 under Windows 7) but it sure does look nice.  I much prefer Outlook.com’s look to Gmail or Yahoo Mail or even Apple iCloud Mail.  I primarily use Gmail these days but I may have to consider moving.  Messages open and look the way I expect them to.  It has all of the features I would ever want in a web mail client.  Overall I’m very impressed!  Other web mail clients look dated in comparison.