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Hardware

Replacing a BT Homehub 5

In 2013 it took BT nearly four months in to connect up the phone line and get internet access enabled at the cabinet, blaming it on “one of those things” that happens when you buy a new build house (despite the rest of the road being connected just fine).  When it was finally up and running I hoped that their newest revision of the HomeHub router, version 5 now with the VDSL modem built in instead of a separate BT Openreach device, would be better than the awfully unreliable HH3.  It really wasn’t much better.  Same poor UI, same poor UX, marginally better reliability.  It’s unusual for it to keep the WiFi up and running for longer than a week without needing to reboot it.

Over the last few months it has been dropping connections, rebooting seemingly at random, refusing to respond to DHCP requests, and generally getting in the bloody way.  Yesterday was the final straw when it rebooted no fewer than 8 times between 8:30am and 10am, and my itchy Amazon Prime trigger finger ordered an ASUS DSL-AC68U.  If I had a little more patience, or if I could find the old BT Openreach VDSL modem I would have moved away from the all-in-one type router/WiFi/modem units and picked up something like the Ubiquiti EdgeRouter but I’ll save that for a bit more research. (more…)

Amazon international Kindle ships, buyers remorse imminent?

I got the notification that my Amazon Kindle order shipped today, with delivery expected in a couple of days.
In my excitement, I hopped over to the Kindle book store (accessed via Amazon.com as opposed to the .co.uk) to queue up some books and previews ready for its arrival.
It’s accurate to say that I’m left a little deflated and disappointed by the titles available right now.
I  was initially surprised to find that there isn’t an obvious way to see any of the popular Best Sellers listings, be it NY Times or perhaps anything else localised for the UK.  All I could do was list _all_ of the Kindle books and sort by ‘Best Selling’.
Top of the list was Glenn Beck with “Arguing with Idiots”.  Maybe I should know more about him but other than him being on FOX and maybe talk radio, I don’t.  I decided to get queue up the “sample” of his book anyway.
BTW the list price of this book for Kindle is $13.79 (or £8.44) including VAT & international wireless delivery via Whispernet.  Match that against the Digital List Price and Print List Price of $29.99, as well as Amazons price for the Hardcover ($16.47) that’s a pretty decent saving.
Scrolling down the list, there wasn’t really anything on their Best Selling list that took my fancy.
I remembered that Dan Brown had a book out recently and thought I’d grab the sample of that too.
Unfortunately, it seems that none of his books are available on Kindle.  Let’s clarify that, none of his books are available on Kindle for UK customers.
The explanation from Amazon is “Due to copyright restrictions, certain Kindle Titles are not available everywhere.”
I bet this is going to become a talking point as Kindles are shipped around the world.
I decided to go through the New York Times best seller list (http://www.nytimes.com/pages/books/bestseller)
Hardcover Fiction
1. THE LOST SYMBOL, by Dan Brown
2. A TOUCH OF DEAD, by Charlaine Harris
3. THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett (yes)
4. THE PROFESSIONAL, by Robert B. Parker
5. THE LAST SONG, by Nicholas Sparks
Only one of the top 5 were available to UK buyers.
Of the UK Sunday Times best sellers list for paper backs (http://tinyurl.com/d9av7f):
1. Cross Country, by James Patterson
2. The Gift, by Cecelia Ahern (yes)
3. The Private Patient, by PD James
4. Once In a Lifetime, by Cathy Kelly
5. Arctic Drift, by Clive and Dirk Cussler
Again, only one of the top 5 were available to UK buyers.
This could make for an interesting couple of days.  There are at least 3 books on those two lists which I’m unable to get at present.
Additionally, I looked for books by Max Brooks (World War Z, Zombie Survival Guide) and found that they aren’t available to me either.
Of course, let’s not forget that Internation Kindles have only started shipping today.  There is plenty of time in the next 48hrs for Amazon to iron out the copyright issues that they use to explain the titles that aren’t available.
Perhaps they should at least have a ‘notify me/download sample when this title is available’ mechanism, I hope they are working this through now.
It’s not all doom and gloom, there are of course many titles available right now.  At least I was able to get a sample chapter of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” 😀

I got the notification that my Amazon Kindle order shipped today, with delivery expected in a couple of days.
In my excitement, I hopped over to the Kindle book store (accessed via Amazon.com as opposed to the .co.uk) to queue up some books and previews ready for its arrival.
It’s accurate to say that I’m left a little deflated and disappointed by the titles that are unavailable for UK buyers right now.  This could make for an interesting couple of days worth of tech news.

(more…)

Moving to eBooks?

bibliophile |ˈbɪblɪə(ʊ)fʌɪl|nouna person who collects or has a great love of books.

I travel a lot for work and quite often my flights are longer than just a couple of hours.
This means that my MBP battery life isn’t long enough to sustain the entire flight and besides, I don’t often get to fly First Class so space is quite limiting.
I therefore usually carry a book or two in my carry on luggage.  Ranging from business style ones (Crucial Conversations, anyone?) to fiction, they can add substantial weight to my bag.  Not forgetting the expense of course.  If i’m bored at the airport, I’ll check out the bookstore there.  For example, I bought a whopping book from Dublin airport last week which wouldn’t even fit in my bag.

I’ve coveted the Amazon Kindle for a long time now, pretty much since it was released and especially since they launched the Kindle DX earlier this year.  I know I’d need a US mailing address to open a US account and get it delivered but that’s fine.  The only thing that has stopped me getting one yet is that I am concerned at not being able to buy books for it.  I just don’t know if you can purchase books “off Kindle” – i.e buy them on my MBP and transfer them to the Kindle via USB.
The last couple of times I’ve been to the US, I’ve had the Kindle 2 in my ‘shopping basket’ about to hit the “order” button but backed out at the last minute. (more…)

Clearing the BIOS password on a Dell D610

Seeing as I work in technology, that obviously means I’m the first port of call for friends/relatives with any kind of computer issue.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my wifes friends asked if I could take a look at her lappy – a Dell D610.
She hadn’t used it for a few years as she got a newer lappy, now couldn’t remember her password which left her husband SOoL when he wanted to take it with him whilst he’s away with work.
As here were a bunch of photos on there of their kids when they were younger I couldn’t simply reinstall the OS and go.
Getting the pics off was pretty easy – Installing the OS was not.
I managed to get the photos off with my trusty 3.5″IDE->USB adaptor.  Took the disk out, hooked it up to my MBP and copied them off.
Well, it wasn’t quite that simple as I didn’t realise OS X wouldn’t search an NTFS drive (probably something to do with spotlight writing the index but being unable to write to NTFS natively).
After a bit of drive wrangling, I managed to get the device to show up in Windows 7 under VMWare Fusion and quickly found the pics.
Right, just the OS to go.
I burned an iso of XP with SP3 slipstreamed in and went about trying to get the lappy to boot from CD.
Once I realised that the boot menu was having no effect, I checked out the BIOS.
Yup, completely locked out with an admin password.
This meant I couldn’t change the boot priority or anything.
Bugger.
A bunch of Googling turned me on to a method of wiping the BIOS completely by shorting out the EEPROM.
It took me a while to work it out and I absolutely refused to pay the jackass with the youtube video promising to show you how to do it for a fee.
So, in the interests of freedom of information, here is how to clear/reset/remove the BIOS password on a Dell D610.
Notes and disclaimer:
This worked for me.  If it doesn’t work for you, i’m not responsible for that.
You will be cutting metal from the casing.  You need to be careful not to leave any residue on the motherboard incase it shorts anything out.
As part of the process, your machines service tag details will also be cleared.
1. Get your BIOS locked Dell D610.
2. Get a paperclip or safety pin.
3. Get a phillips or crosshead screwdriver and some metal cutters (heavy duty wire cutters should do it).
4. Remove the power supply, battery, CD drive and HDD.
5. Unscrew pretty much all of the screws on the bottom of the D610.
6. Remove the bottom case.
7. With the rear of the laptop closest to you, you should see a white label covering the modem on your left.  There should be some black plastic covering which stops the CMOS from touching the motherboard.
8. Just above that, there are some holes in the metal casing. You need to access a chip underneath that area.
9. CAREFULLY remove the metal.
10. Take your paper clip and prepare to short out the two pins 2nd from the left.
11. Power on and short those pins for about 5 secs.
12. If you are doing it right you’ll hear the fan kick in.
13. This message will show on the screen.
14. You can either press FN+x or let it reboot.
15. Now you will be able to go to the BIOS and make whatever changes you need.
It’s actually a pretty simple process once you know what chip is where, although you must be extremely careful when cutting the casing.
I hope that helps someone and saves them a few bucks.

Seeing as I work in technology, that obviously means I’m the first port of call for friends/relatives with any kind of computer issue.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my wifes friends asked if I could take a look at her lappy – a Dell D610.

She hadn’t used it for a few years as she got a newer lappy, now couldn’t remember her password which left her husband SOoL when he wanted to take it with him whilst he’s away with work.  To make things a little less straight forward, there were a bunch of photos on it of their kids when they were younger, so I couldn’t simply reinstall the OS and go.

Getting the pics off was pretty easy – Re-Installing the OS was not.

I managed to get the photos off with my trusty 3.5″IDE->USB adaptor.  Took the disk out, hooked it up to my MBP and copied them off.  Well, it wasn’t quite that simple as I didn’t realise OS X wouldn’t search an NTFS drive (probably something to do with spotlight writing the index but being unable to write to NTFS natively).  After a bit of driver wrangling, I managed to get the device to show up in Windows 7 under VMWare Fusion and quickly found the pics.

Right, just the OS to go.

I burned an iso of XP with SP3 slipstreamed in and went about trying to get the lappy to boot from CD.

Once I realised that the boot menu was having no effect, I checked out the BIOS.  Yup, completely locked out with an admin password.  This meant I couldn’t change the boot priority or anything at all.

Bugger.

A bunch of Googling turned me on to a method of wiping the BIOS admin password completely by shorting out the EEPROM.

(more…)

iPhone sync taking a long time? Maybe a "manual" sync will help

My iPhone sync has been a real pain in the ass for MONTHS.

If I just quickly want to add a podcast i’ve just downloaded, or add a new playlist or single song, it would take at least 10 mins.
5 mins of Backing Up
5 mins of Copying Applications from iPhone
x mins of Actual Sync

The copying applications passed me by for a while, I misread it as copying TO iPhone.
It turns out there is somekind of problem whereby the applications i’ve bought OTA on the iPhone don’t always get sync’d back to iTunes.  So iTunes, instead of just downloading the app from the appstore itself, tries to copy from the iPhone.
Note:  I’ve not looked online for any confirmation of an official problem, this is just my experience.  YMMV.  I’ve also not reset/restored my iPhone at all which is what generally all ‘solutions’ begin with..

Anyway.  I decided today to download the applications that don’t show up in iTunes and make sure that what was in there was totally in sync with my iPhone.

Once this was done, the backing up portion of the sync took less than 15 seconds, and complete sync action took less than 2 mins.

Hurrah!

First Apple 'Genius' Experience

If it was up to me, i’d just replace the cracked topcase on my Macbook myself. I’ve got the Macbook service manual (one that gets issued to the Official Apple Service Centre places) and it’s just as straight forward as I thought. However when I asked the Genius at my local Apple store if I can just get the topcase part to take out, it’s a no can do – you have to be trained to do it. It was with a little roll of the eyes as to say “what do you know about it” which annoyed me. When you make a reservation, they really should ask for a gauge of your technical competence. Even if the self-appraisal is taken with a pinch of salt, I’d rather not be talked to at length as if i’ve never used a computer before.

Not to be completely down on my visit there, although they don’t have the part in stock so I need to go back when they do, my problem was dealt with quickly and efficiently.
As soon as I mentioned the cracked topcase, before even getting the Macbook out of my bag, he acknowledged it was a known issue and started checking stock. He also agreed that it was unusual for a late 2007 model to show this problem as they ‘should’ have fixed it by then.

Like I said, it was dealt with very quickly, in and out within about 15 minutes – although granted i’ve got to go back to the store again when they have the part in. I don’t, however, understand why he asked for my admin account password, I declined to give it to him purely on the basis that there is a lot of stuff on here that is under NDA. I got a little huff out of him for that one even though I offered to turn on the ‘Guest’ account access if they need to test out functionality. I’m going to run a clean install of Leopard today anyway, due to the repeated shutdown and screen lock problems i’m having, i’ll just leave all of that stuff off for the moment until they’ve been able to do their thing.

Apple Macbook – Build quality continued

In the short time since my previous post about my cracked Macbook i’ve been doing a bit of research and have found identical issues.

Here is a pic with the same problem in the same place, via this thread on Macrumours:

Macbook_crack1

Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

There’s even a Flickr group for this problem and an old Engadget post. Maybe I just lucked out and got one of the older ‘faulty’ shells packed with the newer hardware..

I’ve got an appointment at the Genius bar tomorrow so hopefully I can get this sorted.

[tags]Apple, Macbook, crack, build quality[/tags]

Post MWSF Keynote shopping list

Definitely want to pick up the 1TB Time Capsule, much easier than remembering to connect up my external drive every night!

Also, i’m considering picking up an Apple TV to replace the old Mac Mini I have under my TV at the moment (Which i’m going to relocate to the music room to use as a DAS).

I’m not bothered with the Macbook Air, seems to be a bit of a stop gap between something better – as in it’s a bit underspec’d to be taken seriously – Only 80GB storage and only the 1.8ghz CD.  Nice idea though and you can see the Eco touch coming from the Apple board.

Not as groundbreaking as last years iPhone by any margin but still cool.

VMWare Fusion and network bridging

** UPDATED MARCH 12 2010:  I just posted my solution to this problem here **

I’ve had VMWare Fusion running an image of my work laptop, on my Macbook, for nearly three weeks now. I’ve had no problems at all, running over both NAT and via network bridge.

Until this week.

Now, when I try to use the image over network bridge I get the error “The network bridge on device /dev/vmnet0 is not running”. It still works over NAT but i’m perplexed as to where this problem has come from. No software updates, no network config changes, nothing that I can think would affect this at all.

I started to wonder if it was something to do with being assigned a bridged DHCP on my home lan (10.0.0.X), suspending and being brought up on the work lan under a different subnet completely. Maybe something was going majorly wrong with the bridge device.

I couldn’t/can’t find anything logged anywhere other than the error message above in the vmware.log within the VM image folder.

Running the following command restarts all the vmnet related services:

/Library/Application\ Support/VMWare\ Fusion/boot.sh –restart

You’ll need to sudo that command.

I haven’t found anything on the VMWare community forums to indicate that this has been bugged for fix in a later release so i’m still not entirely sure of the cause…

Ultimate Everything

My last post mentioned that I had managed to use Noobz‘ latest downgrader and my copy of GTA:LCS to get from the OR 2.8 version of the PSP firmware back down to the Homebrew friendly 1.50.

Whilst trying to find something useful and interesting to do with my new old-skool style PSP I stumbled across the OE (Open Edition) custom versions of the OR firmware, released by a chap with the moniker Dark Alex.
I’m now running his 3.10OE-a release which enables a number of cool things i’ve found and a number of cool things I *think* it can do :D.

The actual upgrade process was simple, the hardest part was getting the right information and the right versions of the s/w. A lot of forum jumping and post trawling was involved, unfortunately most of the good information was buried amongst, people I assume are under the age of 15, writing “cud u pls hlp me make my PSP play copied games cuz i dont no how” – damn that kind of writing really is one of my biggest hates.. (Not to say that I am a Shakespearean literary genius.)

Disclaimer – If you brick your PSP it’s not my fault, just enjoying having the best paper-weight in your office.

Firstly, I couldn’t run the upgrade until my battery was fully charged – Even though it was connected to the PSU. Annoying.

*Stops*

Ok, I found the info that I was about to type up online already. This would have been helpful yesterday!!

After downgrading to 1.50, follow the guide below.
NB. I didn’t know about the motherboard limitation whereby later versions of PSP are hardcoded not to accept firmware lower than 2.0.. There is a link to a downgrader for this issue too but I did not need it.. (I have one of the earliest Jap import models :D)

http://www.gamerspress.com/index.php?title=3.10_OE-A_Install_Guide

I wonder if it’s possible to run *nix on a PSP yet….