Disposible e-mail addresses—Spam Gourmet Tutorial & Tips

in spam on (#NZDE)
Spam Gourmet is a great free and non-profit service I've been using without complaint for many years (I have no other association with them). It is simply a source of infinite, automatic, disposable e-mail addresses, which can be set-up once and forgotten, or individually managed/disabled at any time, should someone start sending you unwanted junk. It has followed me across many e-mail service changes, and done more than anything else to make e-mail usable. "Your message stats: 1,003 forwarded, 12,809 eaten. You have 201 disposable address(es)." That's a pretty good, long record of blocking the junk I don't want.

While you can start using the service yourself, easily enough, I've compiled a few tips for new users based on years of hard-won knowledge, specifically intended to make it infinitely easier to remember what disposable addresses you've used when you need to sign-in to a site once again.

Step One: Go and sign-up to create an account. Pick a good user name (for this tutorial, we'll use "sguser"), because you'll be stuck using it regularly for many years. You need to supply them with your real e-mail address as well.


Step Two: Choose the available domain you like best, and stick with it. In this tutorial, we'll use "":


Step Three: Log-in to your account, and click the "Advanced Mode" tab near the top:


Scroll down to "Default number", type in "20" and click "Save". This makes it practical to use an address like "" without including a hard-coded number in it all the time.

Step Four: Start using your disposable e-mail addresses

Now you simply give out $SOMEWORD.$USERNAME@$DOMAIN as your e-mail address, and spam gourmet will forward it to your real account. To keep things simple and sane, use the name of the site that's asking for your address... "pipedot", "youtube", "walmart", etc. So, you would sign-up for a youtube account using the e-mail address of: Nothing could be simpler.

If you need more than one disposable address per site (for different accounts) maybe append a number, like "pipedot2". But remember, it is VERY important that you keep these address as SIMPLE AND MEMORABLE AS POSSIBLE, because you WILL have to remember them, years later. If you have to guess what variation on the word "youtube" you used, years later, possibly with a number in there (or not), and any of those variations may have been to any one of the TEN spam gourmet domains, you'll quickly run out of attempts to guess what it was. Keep it simple!

Step Five: Management. Log-in to your account, and click the "Advanced Mode" tab near the top:


Just click on that "Search Addresses" button (no need to type anything)... That will take you to a page that lists ALL the spam gourmet e-mail addresses you've ever used (none yet, of course), how many e-mails they've gotten, and whether new e-mails are allowed through.


From there you click on any one of them, and can set how many "remaining messages" are allowed to go that address. If one of those disposable addresses is getting lots of spam, you change the number to "0" and then "update" and you won't get any more. However, if you're getting nothing but good and legitimate e-mails through it, which you want to keep receiving, you can periodically come back and set that number to "20", which is the maximum allowed, each time you visit this page. After getting the next 20 e-mails, you'll have to come back and update it again, but it's a very small burden.

Enjoy your newly spam-free inbox, and not fearing handing out an e-mail address upon request. If you're happy with the service, consider buying something from the store, or just donating a few dollars.

Make the internet come to you, the way you want it, with RSS

in rss on (#2T88)
You can think of RSS as a DVR for the web! See what you want, when you want, where you want, how you want, faster, without needing broadband internet access, and never missing a single "episode". If you perhaps live with patchy, expensive, or very slow internet access, even just sometimes (like most everyone who owns any mobile computing device: whether laptop, smart phone, or similar), you'll be sorry you didn't learn about all the ins and outs of RSS, sooner.

My interest in RSS didn't come about until I got a smart phone. The tiny form-factor, primitive input method, and relatively low resources make browsing web pages slow and very cumbersome. But an RSS feed reader would take the simplified content and use the most ideal layout for your device, far more like reading an eBook than navigating a website. This was the original promise of HTML, like most mark-up language, but it has almost entirely departed from that objective and become almost as rigid as other prepress document formats.

I like version 3 of RSS Demon for Android, but the latest update has completely ruined it. I'm no great fan of the company, anyhow, (they undermine their paying customers) so I'm open to suggestions for alternatives. Another halfway decent option is the $2 FeedR RSS Reader for Android.

RSS offers many advantages, such as low bandwidth, batched updates for future offline reading, automatic tracking of which stories you've read without missing any that come in, easy methods of saving of interesting stories for future reference (think: offline bookmarks with full-text), etc.

RSS feeds can be found for practically any site. That familiar orange icon is likely hiding somewhere around the perimeter of the page. And even if its not, a search for the site name plus "feed" almost always turns up an RSS/atom/XML option available for your consumption. Several sites I was convinced didn't have a feed, I discovered work just by appending "/rss" onto the end of the site's URL. Alternatively, you can look for link rel tags in the page's source code, too.


RSS isn't perfect for everything. It's not a great match for sites like Pipedot, where the comments (which come along AFTER the story is published) are desirable content. There's no practical way to include them in the RSS feed of the stories. That said, Pipedot does have a feed for ALL comments, which (while lacking the context of the web layout) works okay for a small site like this, and is a tremendous feature for those who prefer RSS.

But far more often, sites will simply abuse their RSS subscribers, and offer only a very short summary, or sometimes nothing more than a title and a link to the story, driving readers to visit the web page where they can be tracked and served up profitable advertisements.

To fix this, 3rd party services exist to combine RSS feeds with page scraping, to serve you a full article (with images), output in a standard RSS feed. All sites I've found that currently work:

Full Text RSS Expanders:
- 6 articles (per feed, per-day) limit.
- Works great with RSSDemon
- Dead-simple URL scheme (just append the feed URL)
- Occasionally unresponsive, but that is okay for RSS.
- 10 articles limit.
- RSS output doesn't work with RSSDemon
- 3 articles limit
- €5/month subscription for 10 article limit
- Works with RSSDemon
- Works on sites that block other services
- $12 "lifetime" subscription fee, but free test sample.
- 10 articles limit.
- Works with RSSDemon
- Works on sites that block other services

NOTE: All of these services are easy to block by target websites using robots.txt, htaccess based on user agent strings, or singling out server source IP addresses. Penny Arcade comics completely block their use, returning 503 errors. I return their kindness by choosing to NOT ever visit their site. YMMV. I didn't read Dilbert for years after they changed their RSS feed from including the strip to just empty items with a link to the site, but with these tricks I am back reading them again. Take note, publishers, who are considering blocking such sites/services...

In addition, you might want to compliment these services by being able to mix/aggregate/combine numerous separate feeds into a single (date-sorted) RSS feed. Keep in-mind the 3-10 daily article limit of the full text converters (listed above), so this works best for very low-volume RSS feeds, only. You might never need this, but one site I read broke-up their single article-per-day RSS feed, into THIRTEEN separate feeds, with still only a couple daily updates across them...

RSS Feed Combiner/Mixer/Aggregator:
- Up to 100 input feeds.
- Source feed must respond "within 5 seconds".
- Maximum of 5 RSS feeds allowed!
- Option to also resize images
- Tons of great options, but doesn't work for me

And last but not least, for sites you absolutely have to follow, but which really, honestly, totally don't have any RSS feeds at all, there are tools out there to do this, too. Just don't expect it to be very pretty:

Web Page To RSS Conversion:
- A bit complex, but powerful & customizable
- Weak documentation and no examples makes it painful to start
- Quick and easy, but output can look like a mess
- Lots of (required) options/tweaks.
- Registration required
- $6/month after 14 day trial
- Some tweaks necessary
- Just for Twitter

RSS makes an admirable replacement for the now-endangered newsgroup, with similar offline reading options that have otherwise gone extinct on the internet. And while cellular deployments are keeping more and more people connected at all times, high prices are causing people to restrain themselves, or even choose much cheaper plans with little or no data and instead depending entirely on WiFi hotspots. One such service is Republic Wireless' voice&text-only $10/month plan without any cellular data, which "reigns as the most popular choice": See Republic Wireless plans

Strangely, I don't recall having the slightest interest in RSS back in my PDA days, despite frequently preferring to read on their screens over a computer monitor. I suppose that was early days for the format with very few sites using it, and I might have paid attention if I ever saw an RSS reader for my devices. Even then, the UIs would probably have been quite primitive like the horrible mobile browsers of the day. Other formats like ".mobi" were very primitive, inconvenient and cumbersome (requiring managing the software on your desktop computer), so vastly less viable. It was also very, very early days for WiFi, so PDA data connectivity was largely limited to serial tethered connections at glacial speeds. That said, a Psion5 tethered to a cell phone was a popular option for those who needed portable connectivity, and clearly the parent of modern smart phones that Apple is happy to take credit for.

A few suggested RSS feeds (for this audience) to get you started:

Recommended RSS Feeds:


XKCD (comic):

The Shortwave Listening Post:

The Daily WTF (tech humor):

National Academies News

Hacker News

Communications Laws:

Politifact truth-o-meter:


RSS Feeds Search Engine:

UPDATED 2015-10-30: Removed now-defunct Yahoo Pipes, warned of RSSDemon app regression, and a few updates to list of RSS web services.

TV antennas - OTA HDTV reception

in broadcast-tv-enginee on (#2SG5)
Cable/satellite TV is a huge expense (typically over $700 per year), which is completely unnecessary for anyone in the US located within 100 miles of a major city.

With the switch to digital HDTV, the picture will look BETTER than any cable/satellite transmission, AND digital sub-channels mean most people end up getting DOZENS of TV channels.

What's more, you'll find that 95% of good, original TV programming is on broadcast TV networks. For a few others shows you can't stand to miss, you may find that Netflix and Hulu can provide them, at far less cost than maintaining a cable/satellite subscription, and come with other added benefits, too.

Since the HDTV switch-over, OTA (over the air) TV reception is actually growing, at the expense of cable/satellite:

To get an idea of what TV signals are in the area, at what strength, and in which direction(s), input your address on TVFool, and look at the digital stations available to you:

Practically all broadcasters on VHF-low (channels 2-6) are dropping their existing channel assignments, and switching to a higher (UHF) one. There are very few exceptions. There are also some (much lesser) signs of broadcasters leaving VHF-high (7-13), likely due to the FCC charging up to 3X as much in annual fees for VHF licenses versus the equivalent UHF, which they've only recently rectified (2014). But for the time being, there are lots of VHF-high channels, so you will need an antenna that can receive channels 7-13. However, with "repacking" after the FCC incentive auction, it's quite possible that this trend will reverse completely after about 2017 or so, when broadcasters in your area may be ordered to change their frequencies.

STRONG SIGNAL (0-20 miles):
If you are just a few miles from all the TV stations you want to receive, and there are no obstructions in the way, you would probably do well to just get a TV-top antenna that does both VHF and UHF ("rabbit ears" for VHF, and a "loop" or "bow-tie" for UHF). They are best placed in-front of a window, facing towards the broadcasting towers. If you have obstacles, are near the maximum distance, want to serve a number of TVs, or otherwise reception is simply poor, see the next section (below).

You do NOT want an antenna with a knob on it, meant to allow fine-tuning of reception for old analog signals. With a strong enough signal, those will mostly work in a few settings, but you'll have to keep switching them back and forth every time you change channels, to get ANY picture. You should not assume that the poor performance of an old antenna like this, which you already have, will give you a proper idea of typical reception with a proper replacement.

Also, an amplifier on an indoor antenna is either completely useless or may even hurt reception. They only help with very long coax cable runs, or if you are splitting one antenna out to several different TVs.

Here's a cheap, basic set-top VHF/UHF antenna:

MEDIUM SIGNAL (20-40 miles):
Don't get an antenna that is large, and/or highly directional with high gain (db) or else it will be unnecessarily difficult to install and aim the antenna. Hopefully all the channels you want to watch are coming from the same general direction, otherwise, you'll need a (low-end) antenna rotator to get a good signal. Two antennas pointed in different directions really doesn't work well, unless you have a very strong signal.

Unless the UHF and VHF signals are coming from very different locations, you'll probably want to get a single VHF/UHF antenna, to keep costs low.

Here's one of the cheapest outdoor antenna I could find, and it includes a basic rotator, preamp, 40ft of RG-59 coax, and a 2-way splitter built-in:

Supersonic SC-603 VHF/UHF

Here's a higher-powered option (but without the rotator, preamp, etc.):

AntennaCraft AC9 VHF/UHF

With the SC-603, I can get very "Good" signals on digital UHF stations down to -85dBm (according to tvfool), but then nothing at all below it, perhaps because this antenna is poor at rejecting the co-channel interference common on those. Analog UHF stations below -75dBm had lots of static and were unpleasant to watch. VHF stations were a bit weaker, and none came close to proper reception, so expect the VHF gain to be pretty poor.

Don't pay too much attention to product specs... Any manufacturer will lie through their teeth, claiming 200+ mile reception with a $10 antenna, but it is just nonsense. The size and design (not specs or price) will tell you what kind of reception you will get, and unbiased customer reviews are most helpful (as on Amazon, but NOT SolidSignal or similar).

If you do need separate UHF and VHF antennas, I suggest a 4-bay antenna for UHF, and something small like an AntennaCraft Y5-7-13 for VHF-hi. 4-bay antennas are hard to find, now, but almost any 8-bay antenna can be used as two separate 4-bay antennas, with the purchase of a few extra u-bolts...

4-pack U-bolts with nuts and plate

AntennaCraft Y5-7-13 VHF-high

To connect both of them to a single coax cable, DO NOT USE A REGULAR SPLITTER or you'll ruin your reception for no good reason. You want a $10 UHF/VHF combiner, usually labeled "USVJ", made by Pico Macom/Blonder Tongue/Holland/etc. Or this may feature MAY be included by mast-mounted preamplifiers (see below).

Pico Macom--Tru Spec UVSJ

I recommend an 8-bay antenna for UHF. One of the top performers, (and significantly less expensive than other 8-bay antennas) is the Winegard 8800. Any 8-bay performs quite well at the lower range of UHF frequencies from 14 to 51. A yagi+corner reflector like an AntennasDirect XG91 (and the dozens of cheaper models commonly seen on roof-tops) will out-perform it only on the highest channels (62-69), which are no longer used for broadcast TV. It's stunning to read the Amazon reviews on the XG91 in particular, where people will admit they have more channel break-up than with an old 8-bay, but it's still better because their TV's signal meter show slightly more bars!

Winegard 8800 8-bay UHF

A few 8-bay antenna manufacturers claim their product gets good VHF performance, but it's all misinformation. At best, they only barely outperform the most basic "rabbit ear" type designs. If you're far enough from UHF stations that you need an 8-bay, you're probably also far from VHF stations, and need a GOOD VHF antenna to bring in the signal. A barely-capable-of-VHF 8-bay simply doesn't have enough gain to get decent VHF reception. A $20 VHF-high antenna will blow them all away. And make sure you use a "UVSJ" VHF/UHF combiner, NOT a standard splitter to connect them (linked above).

One other advantage that multi-bay antennas have over yagi+corner reflectors is size/depth. If you are renting an apartment, you are allowed to install any antenna you want on your property. Multi-bay antennas are pretty flat, and could mount even just on an outside window ledge. Just make sure to mount it securely, because they can be pretty heavy. If there's no location for installation outdoors, you could also install it on the inside of a window, facing out, perhaps hidden from view by your curtain... a yagi would stick out, halfway across the room.

FCC "OTARD" Antenna Placement Rules

VHF antennas are pretty straight-forward. The longer, the better. Outside of Alaska, you probably don't need VHF-lo reception, so a VHF-hi antenna can give good gain, at a smaller size and price. The AntennaCraft Y10-7-13 (120") is a popular model for fringe reception, and is widely available, while fairly inexpensive. For less-distant reception, the AntennaCraft Y5-7-13 is about half-price, and half the size.

AntennaCraft Y5-7-13 VHF-high

AntennaCraft Y10-7-13 VHF-high

With a Winegard 8800, I'm able to get digital UHF signals down to almost -120dBm, and great picture quality on analog stations even with attic mounting. Covering the back-side with aluminum window screen materials improves reception just slightly, but greatly cuts down on interference from signals directly behind the antenna.

With a Y10-7-13, I can get strong signals on digital VHF stations at -91dBm, but then around -95dBm things break-up frequently. VHF antennas don't get as much gain as UHF, so you need a slightly stronger signal, even with the best antennas available.

And if your signal levels are too low, pairing-up two of the same antennas together can give quite a significant gain of 3dB, which is a doubling of signal strength, since dB is a logarithmic scale... And raising your antenna mast to double the height will again give you an extra 3dB, or double the signal. But beyond 150 miles from the transmitter, you're really not going to be able to get regular reception, unless you're on top of a mountain.

If you're going to run the coax straight down from the antenna, directly through a wall and to a single TV, there's almost no benefit to be had from a preamp / signal amplifier. If, however, you're going to run long cables all around your house, split the signal up for 4 TVs, etc., a mast-mounted preamp is invaluable, and will make a TV antenna perform much more like cable.

It's important to remember that you've got to supply power to the preamp. This means you'll need the coax running indoors to a power outlet, either before hitting a splitter, or on a "power passing" leg of a splitter, as many (most?) are now designed to accommodate preamps. If you don't properly connect the power injector, you'll get a terribly weak signal, until you get it all sorted out.

Choosing a preamp was more complicated before, but today, you can either go for a cheap but quite decent preamp like the widely available RCA unit, or spend about twice as much for the top-of-the-line Winegard LNA-200 Boost XT.

RCA TVPRAMP1R Preamplifier

Winegard LNA-200 Boost XT

The "noise" figure is the significant part. If your TV/tuner needs 6db of signal, and you buy a cheap preamp that has 5db "noise" spec, it might actually hurt reception. Meanwhile, the LNA-200's 1db "noise" spec is lower than any tuner, and should improve reception, except in a few extreme cases like signal overload. I've done side-by-side comparisons, and the LNA-200 XT absolutely does offer a slight improvement over cheaper and older preamps. I don't suggest replacing a working 3dbN preamp, unless maybe you're just right on the edge of one specific channel coming in clearly... However, note that the RCA unit has separate VHF/UHF inputs, saving you an extra $10 on-top of the lower purchase price, by eliminating the need for a UVSJ.

You don't need to think about the "gain," or other "distribution" amplifiers, unless you have EXTREMELY long cable runs, and/or are splitting out to a dozen TVs.

A DVR/PVR is a must-have item. Not only can you pause live TV, and skip commercials so each program is 1/3 shorter, you will also find that you quickly accumulate more TV shows than you can watch. When you never miss an episode, and can select from shows airing while you're working or sleeping, the extra hours of viewing really add-up, and necessitates a change in viewing habits. A DVR simply multiplies the value of any and every channel you have available.

Today, the most basic DVRs are very cheap, though you do notably lose the ability to watch one show, while another is being recorded with the current generation of this cheap hardware. They work by having a USB port that you must use to plug-in a hard drive for storage.

$50-100 for the USB drive. I suggest small, 2.5" USB bus-powered drives, only.

Toshiba Canvio Connect Portable Hard Drive

$30-50 for the DVR/tuner box... Ematic / ViewTV recommended:

Ematic AT103B tuner/recorder

Viewtv At-163 tuner/recorder

I can't generally recommend anything other than the Ematic or Viewtv. Unlike most other similar boxes, they do proper (analog-)signal pass-through while the box is powered-off, which makes wiring for the others a big problem. They also have stable firmware without some of the bugs other boxes notoriously suffer from.

The EMatic happens to be the cheapest, but recent units have noticeably worse reception, so the ViewTV box may be worth the extra money. I strongly suggest avoiding the IVIEW brand boxes, due to HORRIBLE warranty terms ($20 repair shipping charges), terrible remote, and all manner of endless firmware bugs.

Cheapest antenna mast option I've found is a chain-link fence "top rail". $11 for 10ft segments at local hardware stores, with tapered ends that allow them to fit together. To connect multiple 10ft segments together requires drilling a couple holes and bolting them together, but nothing more expensive or involved is required, unlike other types of bulk pipe. Don't cheap-out on heavy-duty bolts and nuts, though!

10ft x 1 3/8" 17 gauge Galvanized steel top rail

If you're mounting to a wall, overhang, etc., make sure the screws for the mounting bracket get a good solid grip on a nice sturdy stud. The forces involved are impressive. And if you're only using one mount at the top, and resting the bottom on the ground, make sure it's buried at least 6 inches deep, preferably inside a buried cinder block or similar. If you don't give any thought to the footing, the leverage will be enough to just push aside a 1-inch wide channel of dirt, bend the top bracket or break your eaves, then collapse on your roof.

Channel Master heavy-duty 4" (wall-clearance) wall mount

Channel Master heavy-duty 12" (wall-clearance) wall mounts

The typical recommendation is that no segment should be taller than 10ft (above the top mounting bracket), without the use of guy wires. Otherwise, expect lots of flexing in high winds, and the possibility of the antenna mast collapsing.

Chimney-mount hardware is inexpensive and works great, either for an actual chimney, or other large and heavy roof-top items, like an air conditioner condenser. The actual straps can be substituted for plumbers tape/pipe strap if desired, but the two angle-iron brackets and other in
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