Palo Alto PA-220

About a month ago, Palo Alto announced their new 8.0 firmware, along with some new hardware.  The most exciting new product to me, personally, is their new PA-220.

The PA-200 is a unit I have a lot of experience with.  It’s got 4 Gig ports for traffic, supports 100 Mbps of firewall throughput, dropping to 50 Mbps with Threat prevention enabled.  It’s a good unit for a small office.

The PA-220 is better, sporting 8 Gig ports for traffic, 500 Mbps of firewall throughput, dropping to 150 Mbps with Threat enabled.  It is without fans, and since it uses EMMC for storage (32 GB), there shouldn’t be any moving parts to break down.

Basically, it’s got more power than a PA-500, the same number of ports, and it’s in an even smaller package than the PA-200.

Best of all, it’s at a much better price point than the PA-200.

March 7, 2017 at 11:20 pm 1 comment

Sous Vide Flank Steak

Last week, I tried flank steak sous vide.  I cooked them at 131 degrees.  The recipe I went by was for 90 minutes, though I may have gone a bit longer.  I seared them and cut them into strips.  We put some of the meat into tortillas and topped them with various taco/fajita toppings.  I wasn’t very impressed with the result.

Tip:  When you buy steak, etc. from a warehouse club, you might get a good number in one big package.  When you get them home, portion them, season them and seal them in individual sous vide bags (vacuum or water displacement method) just like you are about to sous vide them, but then place them in the freezer.  This makes the next time you want to cook them super easy to get started.  No need to thaw – if it’s a short cook time, like an hour or so, add 50% more time to it.  If it’s a long cook time, like overnight, there’s no need to add any time to it.

Since I had four more flank steaks in the freezer, already prepped this way, I figured I’d try again this weekend.  But with a long cook time, and a bit higher of a temperature.

Friday evening, I dropped a frozen pair of them into a water bath.  This time, I set it to 140 degrees.

Saturday evening came (probably around 20 hours in the bath, maybe more, maybe less).   I cut them into strips, then did a really quick sear of the strips in a pan set to about 6 (so, a bit higher than medium).  The resulting meat was very tender, but I wouldn’t say it had reached the mushy stage.  It was very good.  Next time I cook flank steak sous vide, this will probably be the way I do it.

March 5, 2017 at 11:52 am Leave a comment

MythTV on a Synology NAS

I have a DiskStation 1512+, which has an Atom D2700 CPU with two cores running at 2.13 Ghz and 3 GB of RAM.  While it’s not speedy by today’s standards, DSM is easy to use and includes the ability to do a lot with a few mouse clicks, including run Docker, which in itself gives you a lot of flexibility.  I also have an HDHomerun Prime tuner, which would seem to be a good match for MythTV, if I could get it running on this NAS.

I’ve looked into running MythTV on Docker in the past.  Searching around the net, I’ve found people talking about it, and there are even some Docker images available for MythTV, but documentation hasn’t exactly been a strong point.  There is an image for Unraid of an older version of MythTV, but I wanted to use .28.  Fortunately, someone made a newer container with that version!  It works on a Synology, if installed correctly…  With a few caveats.  And since I had trouble finding good instructions on getting this to work on a Synology NAS, I thought I would post it here for anyone else who wants to try this.

My Installation
1. DSM 6.1-15047
2. Docker 1.11.2-0316 installed via Package Center

To Install

  1. Login to DSM and start Docker
  2. Go to the Registry and search for MythTV
  3. Download mp54u/myth28:latest
  4. When done, to the the Image section, click on the image and hit the Launch button
  5. In the Create Container window that pops up, hit the Advanced Settings button
  6. Click on the Network tab, then check the box Use the same network as Docker Host
  7. On the Volume tab, create three mount paths:
    1. Create/Select /media/MythTV and set the path to /home/mythtv
    2. Create/Select /media/MythTV/recordings and set the path to /var/lib/mythtv
    3. Create/Select /media/MythTV/db and set the path to /db
  8. On the Environment tab, add a variable called TZ and set the value to  the appropriate timezone.  In my case, this was America/New_York.  There should be no spaces in the name here.  Google for Linux and TimeZones and you’ll probably be able to find a list of them.  Make sure to use the right one.
  9. Launch your new MythTV container.  Give it a couple minutes before continuing.
  10. Open a VNC client.  Put in your DiskStation’s IP, and remote control it.
  11. You should be logged into your Docker now.

Note:  The username and password are both mythtv.

At this point, you should be able to run the MythTV Backend Setup tool and configure MythTV.  After it’s configured, MythWeb will be running on your DiskStation, port 6760.

This forum post, which is a little specific to Unraid and involves the older docker image with MythTV .25 or so, should help you set it up past this point.  Note – He talks about using RDP to control it, but that did not seem to work when using Host networking, but VNC did from my Mac (using Chicken of the VNC).  Be aware that I have had issues exiting from the MythTV Backend Setup tool where VNC seems to lock up.  I’ve had another time where it exited normally, but the Backend didn’t seem to start afterward.  In both cases, a quick restart of the Docker container got it back up and running again.  If anyone comes across these issues and figures out a good long term fix, please leave it in the comments!

Front End
In my opinion, about the best front end that will run on a set top box is MrMC.  It’s available for AppleTV and for FireTV and is pretty inexpensive.  It includes the MythTV PVR add-on and is easy to configure, especially if you have experience with Kodi.

February 28, 2017 at 11:33 pm 4 comments

Switching to nYNAB – Web edition

In the past, I’ve been somewhat outspoken in my dislike for changes made from YNAB4 to nYNAB.  It’s now had a year to improve…

I probably made too much of some of the issues with it, though there were two main issues that kept bothering me:

  1. Scheduled transactions don’t take effect until the scheduled date hits, and there’s no way to “force” them to take effect earlier, other than pre-dating them.  This means your category balance will show more than is truly available (since you’ve effectively spent some of that money), and your account balances will not show your planned activity.
  2. The Red Arrow to the Right – to push negative category balances to the future.

For #1…  Well, this still bothers me.  I really do wish there way some way to mark a “scheduled” transaction as if it had already passed, other than pre-dating it.  I think some people have basically said to treat it like a check…  You generally write those out and mail them, but date them when you write them.  I don’t particularly like that, but it works.

As for #2…  The Red Arrow was a tool I used readily.  As it turns out, I think I used it far too much.  One recent month had 11 categories pushing negative balances forward.  I do think that not having that easy ability will actually be a good thing for me, in terms of budgeting.  The money will need to come from somewhere, forcing me to make decisions that I’ve pushed off in the past.

One other issue that I think I first thought would be a bad thing is the single month view, versus the previous multi-month view.  But now that I’ve really been using it for a bit, I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal.

Anyhow, I’m really trying to switch this time.

January 5, 2017 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment

Sous Vide – Scallops and Chicken

Today, I went to a seafood market near the ocean and got about a pound of sea scallops.  Since this seemed a little on the light side, I also got a pair of chicken breasts out so we could have a combination dinner.

Before I started the proteins, I got carrots working again.  These carrots were somewhat thick, so I cut them in half to cut back on the thickness.  After cooking them, I ran into a sorta strange behavior on my Anova.  I ended up unplugging it, removing it from the water, and waiting about 20 minutes or so, I guess…  Then I tried it again, and it seemed to clear up the strangeness.  The carrots went into the fridge, as there was a lot of time left until they were needed.

I cooked my Chicken at 150 for probably a little over an hour, then removed that, lowered the temp to to 124, added back in the carrots (to warm them) and the scallops.

Somewhere in here, my daughter made a nice lemon sauce, and I started a pot of rice.

While the scallops were in the water bath, I seared the chicken and when the 30 minutes was up, got the scallops out of the water, dried them with paper towels, put a bit of butter in my skillet and seared the scallops.

As for the verdict…  The carrots seemed a bit less done than last time.  Perhaps it was the thickness.  Both the scallops and the chicken were good.  Previously, I think my chicken was a bit on the dry side, which seems odd since it was mostly cooked in water, but anyhow…

October 15, 2016 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

Sous Vide – Steak

Last Friday I made my first Sous Vide steaks.  They were flat iron steaks.  I set the Anova for 140 (or perhaps 130) degrees, and left them in the water for about 40 minutes.  After taking them out and searing one, I ended up with a pool of blood around it shortly after.  Cutting into one, I saw they were not cooked as much as I would have liked.  I finished searing them and popped them in an oven for about another 15-20 minutes.  Afterward, they were pretty much how I wanted them.  I think I should have left them in the water bath for a bit longer.  Ah well, live and learn.

Aside from that, I made some corn – good as usual.

October 15, 2016 at 6:03 pm Leave a comment

Sous Vide – Salmon and Corn

For tonight, I decided to go with two sous vide items…  Ok, these are items that probably don’t normally go together, but hey – I wanted to try them…

The corn was shucked, washed, and placed into sous vide bags with about a TBSP of butter, 2 ears to a bag.  Note to self – in the future, add some silverware to the bag to weigh it down.

Bringing an entire Cambro container up to 183 degrees took quite a long time.  Once it made it there, I had trouble with the bags of corn floating.  I think I gave it about 35 minutes.

So, for the Salmon, I went with a brine for a half hour or so, then rinsed them, I think I patted them dry with paper towels, then dropped them into zip lock bags with some olive oil and let them chill in the fridge for a while.  I got the temperature back down to about 130 degrees, then put them in for about 35 minutes.

Aside from this, I made rice and a sweet sauce.

This was probably my most successful sous vide dinner so far.  The corn was very flavorful, firm, crisp, and sweet.  Not crisp as in raw.  It was some very, very good corn.  The salmon was good too, though the texture was different.  It was probably softer than any salmon that I’d ever had that was cooked at home.

Overall, a very successful dish.

October 2, 2016 at 7:32 am Leave a comment

Sous Vide – Tuna

Tonight, I made dinner yet again.  This time, I only made one dish Sous Vide, Tuna following this recipe.  Differences this week:  I bought a Cambro 4.75 gallon container with a sliding lid to cook in and an Ikea pot organizer (which fits inside the Cambro, allowing me to keep the bags separated).

I’m not having much luck with proteins cooked Sous Vide.  Perhaps it was that the Tuna I cooked was a flash frozen Tuna from a local warehouse club.   It was Ahi Tuna, and the color didn’t look as red as I expected.  I think it was more of a brown, but perhaps that was from the freezing process?

I set my Anova to 115 degrees, as I wanted it to be a little firm, but not to the point that it’s dry.  I think my Tuna steaks were around 1 inch thick, giving me a cook time of 30-45 minutes.  I took the first piece out around the 45 minute mark and proceeded to sear it.  I probably took the last piece out between the 50 and 55 minute mark.

What I ended up with, though it was only cooked to 115 degrees, looked much closer in color to the 130 degree image from the Serious Eats article.

I thought that perhaps my issue was with the Anova itself.  Perhaps it was not accurately reading the temperature of the water, making it heat it up another 10-15 degrees above the expected temperature?  I tested that theory by firing up the Anova after dinner and placing a large mercury thermometer in the water bath.  It showed about 109, matching the Anova.  A few minutes later, when the Anova had reached 115, the mercury thermometer also showed about 115 degrees.

So, since the Anova is operating as expected, I can only conclude that I either overcooked the Tuna by going to 45-55 minutes and should have removed it at 30 minutes, or that it was a quality issue with my Tuna itself.  Another potential issue that I just thought of…  Perhaps my intake and outlets of the Anova are getting partially blocked, making the Anova overheat the water?

My choices of sides seemed to go well this evening, though they were not Sous Vide, so I am not going to go into them here, at this time.

Not sure what I’m going to make next Saturday.

September 24, 2016 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

Sous Vide – Going both barrels

Since I had just bought my Anova, I figured I’d try to cook an entire meal using it.  A main dish, two sides, and a dessert.

Main dish:  Boneless Chicken breast
Side #1:  Garlic Cheese Risotto
Side #2:  Carrots
Dessert:  Individual Cheesecake

Yes.  All four items made Sous Vide.

I started Friday night by making the Cheesecake.  I basically adapted a recipe based on one I found on-line (linked in the Will it Sous Vide article on Skillet.  Spoiler: Yes, it will!).

My adapted recipe made 8 individual cheesecakes in mason jars, with some graham cracker crust mixture left over, I believe.

Saturday came.  My plan was to pre-cook both the Risotto and the Carrots placing them in the fridge, then cook the Chicken.  When the Chicken was ready, I’d take it out and start finishing it, dropping the Risotto and Carrots into the water bath to warm up.

Risotto – I followed this recipe pretty closely from the Sous Vide supreme website.   Everything looked pretty good when I took it out of the Sous Vide and placed it into the fridge, though I didn’t look too close.

Carrots – I followed this recipe pretty closely from ChefSteps, except I didn’t use the fancy seasonings they suggested during the finishing step.  (It too went into the fridge and was warmed back up while finishing the chicken).

Note:  Since both of these cook above 158 degrees, I double bagged them in Ziploc freezer bags.

The Chicken – Serious Eats is another great looking resource for Sous Vide, so I followed their guide on Chicken, though my chicken breast was boneless.  I chose the 150 degree temperature, as I figured that would be a good start for my family.


When I pulled the chicken out at the 2 hour mark, I took the temperature with an old meat thermometer.  It measured in the low 140s, I believe.  Being new to sous vide cooking, and still be concerned about salmonella, I moved the Anova up to 155 and put it back in for about 30 minutes.  I was able to then finish it a skillet, browning both sides a little.

When we ate it though, I was surprised that it seemed dry.  I was expecting something more moist than we are used to, but I am not sure what happened.  Perhaps my old meat thermometer needs to be retired and replaced.  Perhaps the extra 30 minutes was the issue?  In any case, it was not what I expected.

The risotto, well, it did not turn out well at all.  It’s like the rice broke down.  The flavors were there, but it was just wrong.  This may have been due to the reheating I did.  Perhaps it was the ingredient – the grocery store Arborio rice?  I’ve not tried again to see if it’s better when eaten fresh, or if perhaps 45 minutes is a few minutes too long.

The carrots were a surprise hit.  Everyone who had them really seemed to like them.  The flavor seemed to be concentrated.   Though I went to the farmers market to try to find nice carrots, it looked like they just had monster carrots, so I used the normal ones my wife gets from the grocery store, and they were terrific.

The cheesecake was also well liked by everyone, which I pretty much expected.  I mean, it’s cheesecake – what’s not to like?

Final Tally:  2 winners, 2 losers

So, for cooking the protein, what Sous Vide is supposed to excel at, Sous Vide failed me, or perhaps I just failed.  Perhaps I should have trusted the technique, but it may have been a bad idea to try chicken as my first Sous Vide protein.

Risotto looked promising, but my result was disappointing.  I do want to try this again, as a method to cook risotto via Sous Vide would be great, as it is normally a labor intensive process.  Unfortunately, I think that the time-insensitivity that Sous Vide is famous for probably doesn’t hold true with rice.


September 24, 2016 at 9:23 pm Leave a comment

Sous Vide Cookery – Intro

My day job and the sort of things I enjoy doing in my free time seem to be technology based.  I’m not very into sports anymore, and I’ve slowed down on my woodworking, as it’s a pretty expensive hobby.  Relative to stress, it was recently suggested that I should get a hobby, so I’ve chosen one.

I’ve enjoyed cooking breakfast for my family on Sunday mornings for years.  There are also a few other meals I cook from time to time.  I don’t think I’ve ever been a great cook, but I do enjoy the satisfaction of cooking a good meal and seeing my family enjoy it.  I’ve recently read a bit about Sous Vide, and thought that sounded like my kind of cooking.  More relaxed and laid back, not the critical to the second cooking like you see on reality cooking TV shows.

My wife was on-board, as I offered to cook dinner on Saturdays.

I spent a little time reading about it.  And my wireless carrier sealed the deal for me, when they stopped allowing contract extensions to get you a subsidized iPhone.  My iPhone replacement budget category provided the seed money for my new hobby.

Enter the Anova Precision Cooker, a device that is relatively inexpensive ($199), easy to use from display of the device, and connects via Wi-Fi to you phone, allowing control and such there.  The Wi-Fi is not entirely necessary, but it’s a nice addition.  You could save $20 and get the Bluetooth only version, and you’d probably be perfectly happy with it.

Before deciding on the Anova, I read about the Joule also.  It sounded very much like the Anova, with one big difference.  From what I can tell, it’s controlled through your smart phone only, so there are no manual controls on it.  I read this good comparison article and had planned to get the Joule.  It appears as though they have only recently started shipping the Joule, and they are apparently sold out of their initial batch. Basically, both of  these units are very good, and they are right there on price too.  Since the Anova was much more readily available, that’s the one I bought.

My impression of the Anova were basically in-line with what I had read about it.  I did a quick test and spent a little time planning my first Saturday night meal.


September 24, 2016 at 8:37 pm Leave a comment

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