fixing the color on Roku TV : the TCL49S403

The TCL49S403 Roku TV is a heck of a deal for less than $340: 4K and almost 50″.

But it comes with flaws. First is the limited viewing angle: you need to be sitting nearly  directly in front of it to get any pop to the image at all. 30 degrees off center, and the picture quality goes to hell.

There is nothing that can be done about that – it’s in the hardware.

And second,  the color is, shall we say, less than spectacular out of the box. And the build-in controls don’t do much to help it. 

The color was “adequate” (the most commonly used word in reviews) but that was about it. And my 4K Apple TV was pretty much terrible (a big idappointment because that is why I bought the TV in the first place!)

But I’m not here to bitch – I’m here to serve. I got my Roku  TV serving up splendid colors, and I’m a happy camper.

To do that, I had to choose some unusual settings from the TV menu, and then (the real secret) use the advance settings which are only available from your Roku App on your phone!

One of the nice  features of the TV is that these setting can apply independently to each of the HDMI ports, so you can have unique settings for each of your devices.

I’m not saying that -my- settings will match -your- hardware, but I’m pretty sure they will set you off in the right direction

HDMI 1 (My Tivo box)

PICT mode – sports
Gamma – 2.2. (2.4 is a bit too dark)
Noise reduction – off
Color temp – cool
Dynamic contrast – off
Backbite – 100
Brightness – 50
Contrast – 95
Sharpness – 60
Color – 65

HDMI-2. Apple TV

PICT mode – bright hdr
Gamma – 2.4*
Noise reduction – off
Color temp – normal*
Dynamic contrast – off
Backbite – 100
Brightness – 50
Contrast – 95
Sharpness – 82*
Color – 69*


NOW… on your iPhone, first select the HDMI input  your’re going to adjust, and then try these settings in the 11-point color secction:

20 x 15 x 20. (Normal)
25-25-25. Cmyk

In short, you’re bumping up the color intensity by those percentages.


I bumped up the “Custom” setting in CMYK, and chose that for my Apple TV, and bumped up the “Default” setting by 20-15-20. (It was a little too green for my taste, hence the 15.)

I hope this helps someone else as much as it has helped me.

Windows 10

I never expected to find myself saying this, but the time has finally come: I can actually recommend Windows 10. Not over OS X, mind you, but I’ve been a charter member of the “Windows sucks” club since day one.

However, I’ve been playing with W10, and honestly it’s not bad.

When it comes out in about two months, you can get a copy for free if you have a legit (& non-OEM) version of W7 or W8.

Based on everything I’ve seen so far, I’d say go for it.

Window complaint #1

Here’s my Numero Uno complaint about Windows software: it lies to you.

If you don’t use it all the time, and you invoke the system update, here is what you’ll see:



A screen with “Windows is up to date” in large bold letters. Just to drive it home, the screen also says “There are no updates available for your computer.”


“Excellent!” you say, and leave the screen, having been assured that your computer is up to date, right.



If you click on “check for updates” in the sidebar, here’s what you’ll get (or something similar) about 99% of the time:



YEP – anywhere from 1 to hundreds of updates needing to be installed.


It seems that the first message is actually left over from the last time you updated!

This is seriously crappy software engineering. It should NEVER appear in professional software. 

And it is probably a huge part of why so many PCs are infected with malware.


If this happened in a programming class, I’d fail the student. Why can’t Microsoft get even this right?

At the very least, the message should say: “It has been 20 days since you last checked. Software updates may be available. Please click on “check for updates.”

What it should absolutely NOT SAY is “Windows is up to date – There are no updates available for your computer.”

What junk.

ear phone – bud – headphone – cans … tip

In case you’re the proud owner of a new iPod or iPhone, or have just bought a new set of “cans” (headphones) regardless of type (over the ear, in ear, buds, buckets… whatever) you might not know that you should break them in.

That is, plug them in and let them run for about 4 days, playing a variety of music (iPod shuffle mode is great for this) in order to loosen them up.

This is more important for some earpieces than others, but is generally true of most higher-end devices.

Anyone who has broken in a pair of Grado’s will know exactly what I’m saying: the difference is pretty obvious, as the sound goes from harsh to lush.

If you’re using the buds daily, it’s still pretty easy, of course: just plug them in and let the music play all night. You’ll be done in a week, and if my experience is any indicator, you’ll certainly notice the difference in the quality of the sound.



Digital audio out of an iPod/iPad

(This only works on 30-pin devices, and will not work with the new Lightning adapters.)


I thought some readers might be interested in how I got digital audio out of my iPad.

The Apple 30-pin to USB (female) adapter, sold as part of the “photo kit” I think, was a wonderful bit of hardware that would allow all kinds of things Apple didn’t intend (ie keyboards and so on.)

I have some Grado headphones, and a little NuForce uDAC that can power them.

To get this to all work together, I’ve plugged the 30-pin adapter into the iPad and a USB A Male to USB B Male cable into a >powered< hub. (Note that the iPad becomes the “computer” to the hub’s one and only B input.)

Then another similar cable goes from the one of the hub’s A sockets into the uDAC’s B socket.

The iPad complains about the setup, but it works just fine, and I’ve enjoyed many hours of quality listening with this odd configuration.



End of an era…

There comes a time when the old passes away, often to the premature glee of the young, and the next era begins. The writing was on the wall with Apple’s iPhoneification in Lion, and, as usual, Microsoft copies it with the SmartPhonification of Window’s 8. (Gawd, I wish Microsoft could think for itself!)

We old timers, (I’ve been around the Apple computer since 1978) knew this day would come, and here it is… computers are now “appliances” – more like toasters than tools for most of the population.

Most folks just want to surf the web; watch video; chat and maybe put a cute balloon of text on some of their photos. Billions of snapshots are shared with friends daily. Junk mail crams inboxes. Thieves lurk; con-artists abound. Rumor and lies mix with “personalized facts”; the sane and intelligent bemoan the silly bleatings of the herds of sheep.

Some few folk really are artists; most are pretenders to the title – The Thomas Kinkade’s of the world, selling “genuine faux pearls” to the masses.  Some folks really are rich, but the email you got promising you $15,000,000 if you will just send along your bank account and social security number, isn’t gonna work out for you.

Today, most never use the computer as a tool, but more like a fancy television. And the less control they have; the more like an appliance it becomes, the more the huge companies can control what the appliance does; what it serves up; how you get it; and most importantly, how much you pay, pay, and continue to pay for the convenience of not thinking too hard.

The tool that once empowered us, now enslaves the new generation. They accept it, dismissing comments such as this one, with “old fuddy-duddy” and “who cares?”

That may, of course, be entirely true. I remember some of that in me, with my parents. And like them, I’ll be dead soon enough anyway, so really: who cares?

I do. It’s a lament for love lost. For a while there, in the middle of the 20th century, we were climbing higher; getting smarter; showing more compassion; being more aware.

I guess the air got too thin. Something changed, and despite (or because of) the continuing forward drive of technology, the social slide has turned downhill.

I lament the loss of fine music; the failure to read the masters; the lack of appreciation art, and the soaring of the soul these provide.

And, old fuddy-duddy that I am, I resent the homogenizing of my past; the blandness of the future. I resent the loss of my tools as the operating systems of my desktop are dumbed down to the simplicities of my cell phone.

Life goes on. I’m just sorry that I see the future so clearly now, and that there’s no way to explain your losses to you. After all, I’m just some old fuddy-duddy.


Goodbye, Steve

I bought my first Apple in 1978; sat down with Woz’s Red Book (which I still have) and taught myself programming. In December of that year, I was awakened by a woman, unidentified, who has seen my advertisement for “Apple programming.” She asked what I thought of Apple’s own accounting software. I replied that I was not in competition with Apple, and that I frequently recommended their software. Still anonymous, she asked nothing else; simply said “Thank you” and hung up.

An hour later, the phone rang again, and I was offered a job as the first outside contractor ever hired by Apple. From that day to this, even in semi-retirement, I’ve made my living with Apple products. Programming; writing for Mac Home Journal; editing TechNotes; consulting. Today I continue to program albeit for the iPhone. My Macs are used for video editing and photography. My day is still spent before a glowing screen.  I estimate that I’ve spent over 150,000 hours “at the wheel.”

It was coincidence of some sorts: I went to school with Bill Atkinson; was taught by Jef Raskin. My sister was in Woz’s plane when it went down, along with Jack and Candy. I was introduced to Apple just after they moved from the Red House to the Bandley Street warehouse. I remember looking over the cubicle walls: “That’s Woz office. Job’s is over there… and back  there is where we glue the rubber feet on the computers.”

Over the years I worked on DOS; the ROM for the Apple //c; the Apple ][ GS; the original AppleWorks and much more. My work, because of Apple, took me on some of my greatest adventures, including whale research in Alaska; work for NASA, and PBS. I met with both Steves several times, and when I “officially” retired from Mac programming a couple of years ago, Steve J called me to chat about the old days. We were not “friends” but long-time acquaintances, and that he’d phoned me spoke volumes about him.

Almost exactly half my life has involved Apple, its people and products. It has been, in a very large sense, my reality.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to Steve. I got the chance to tell him some of these things, and that he could rest knowing that he not only changed the world, but changed it for the better.

Goodbye, Steve.

Thank you.

Tracy Valleau

Why it’s called Micro$oft

Today I updated VMware Fusion to 3.0 on my MacBook. My installation of Vista Ultimate didn’t like that, and promptly announced that this copy wasn’t “genuine” and likely pirated.

Now, I’ve owned, and paid for:
Windows 95
Windows 98
Windows ME
Windows XP
Windows XP Professional
Windows 2000 Professional
Windows Vista Ultimate.

A small fortune in generally crappy software (which I needed to have since I wrote cross-platform software, and needed to test it.)

I have each and every original disk, and each Product Key.

So I wasn’t particularly worried that it complained, as there is a built-in mechanism for verifying and activating… except this time, it didn’t work.

Verification told me to put in my Product Key (instead of verifying) and then told me that the product key was for an update, and couldn’t be used.
Activation told me to put in my Product Key (instead of verifying) and then told me that the product key was for an update, and couldn’t be used.
Choosing enter product key, told me that the product key was for an update, and couldn’t be used.
Visiting the website for activation… (follow me on this) gave me explicit instructions which (you’re ready?) to enter the product key, and that the product key was for an update, and couldn’t be used.

At no point did I get a phone number, or the “activation key” sequence I’d seen before.

You see, apparently with Vista, M$ has decided not to tell you the customer activation number, and instead offers to sell you a new key.

Well, I found the phone number via Google, (no, not Bing) and called.

“Dave” (with a strong Indian accent) kept interrupting me, to tell me things I’d already done, until I finally sat silent for 20 seconds and he wondered if I was still there on the line. This time I asked if he’d care to hear the full description of the problem. When he finally listened, he told me that he was in product activation, and that sounded like a technical problem to him. Would I mind if he transferred me?

Nope, not at all. Thank you. (I”m always overwhelmingly polite with these poor folks, who spend most of the day talking to irate computer-illiterates, as I’ve discovered that always works best.)

Off to “Jim” (with a strong Indian accent) to repeat the entire story again… and be told that was a question for the activation center, and that he couldn’t help. Would I mind if he transferred me?

Nope, not at all. Thank you. (Figuring that maybe I would not get “Dave” again.) I didn’t. I got “Tom” (with a strong Indian accent) and I repeated the problem yet again.

Well, obviously that was a problem for customer service, not activation! (Sure! Silly me!) Would I mind if he transferred me?

Nope, not at all. Thank you.

This time I got “Bill” (with a strong Indian accent, although I thought by now that surely I’d reached Gates himself… but the accent was wrong…) where I explained the entire situation for the 4th time.

And was told “it’s too bad that you’ve had the software longer than 90 days, so your free support has run out. You can visit our forums; buy a new activation key; or continue talking to me for an incident fee of $59.”

As I hung up, I’ll admit my thoughts were less than cordial.

And that, my friends, is why it’s spelled “Micro$oft.”


PS. I finally did get it installed, but the way I did it was never even suggested by M$. It was to simply re-install XP and then update it to Vista. I had a backup copy of my Fusion XP file, and ran that, and installed the upgrade from there. On a Macintosh, the total upgrade time, from scratch, with all online updates: 90 minutes.

The same for a PC: 6.5 hours. Why? Because on a Mac, there is a cumulative update package, that will take whatever your current software version number is, and update it. One download. One update. PCs on the other hand have to go thru every single upgrade individually, in the order it was released, one at a time. There were 95 individual updates to be downloaded and installed. Total time for just the updates (on fast cable) was 5 hours (+ 1.5 hours for the software install in the first place.)

No. Really. I love my PC. I mean what’s not to like about the Registry?

Wait. Gotta stop. My tongue is bleeding.

My millions

Here’s an email I just received. I particularly like the last line.


You were made the beneficiary of Three Million, Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars

(3.5M USD) which is to be remitted to you.

I want to assure you that the transaction is absolutely legal and 100% risk free as the

entire process of the transaction will be done in accordance with the law so as to prove

that the fund is free from drugs or terrorism.

The fund have been bonded, sealed and approved for remittance to you, no one has the

authority to deduct any amount from the fund until it is remitted to you.

In order to facilitate the remittance of your fund to you you have the option to choose

whether your fund should be delivered to you or transferred into your bank.

You are hereby advised to acknowledge the receipt of this email, so that we can proceed with

the transaction.


Henchard Cole.

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Want a home stereo to go with your iPod?

Just in case you want to put together a little system to go with your iPod, and perhaps impress your friends… here’s what the editors of Stereophile magazine think would do nicely:

Turntable : Goldman Reference II turntable: $300,000

ToneArm: Continuum Audio Labs Cobra is $15,595

Cartridge: Clearaudio Goldfinger : $8000

Phone PreAmp: Boulder 2008: $33,250

DAD-A playback: Meridian Reference 800: $22,540

or, you could go with a separate transport and digital processor:
dCS Verdi Encore: $15,499 and dCS Elgar Plus: $15,499

PreAmp (surround): Meridian Reference 861 is $19,000

or, if you prefer stereo only: McIntosh C1000 : $26,000

Next, if you like a solid-stat amp, it’s hard to beat the Chord SPM 14000 MonoBlocks: $79,000

or for you tubie-types: Lamm Industries 2.1 MonoBlocks: $29,900

(I hate to bring it up, but some folks like to slum, and get an integrated amp: Ars Emitter II Exclusive: $24,900… very crass…)

Speakers: the Peak Consult El Diablo is only $74, 995 the pair.

Sub-woofer: the REL Studio III: $8995

Headphones: Stax SRS-007II Omega II system: $3895

Equalizer: Meridian 861with MRC room correction: $19,000

Power Isolator: Arcolink 6N-NCT: $10,950

AC cables: JPS labs Alluminata power Cable: $3499 each (you’ll need 8 for all this gear) $27,992

Interconnect cables: JPS labs Alluminata: $2999 per meter. (you’ll need about 4 of these as well.) $11,996

Speaker cables: JPS labs Alluminata: $8499 / pair (you’ll need 5 pair for surround sound) $42,249

Hey! Less than a million! : $700,705. (That’s the stereo price; if you want 5:1 surround, you probably ought to stick in another $250,000…)

Drat… that takes it right up to a million bucks… sigh

and, like computers, this will all be obsolete in a year or so, and you can start over!



And, oh yes: this stuff actually sells!