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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blogger Languages – A Funny Thing Happened Today

I wonder if Google & Blogger are too smart for themselves. The reason that I wonder is that a very funny thing happened today in Cancun, Mexico. When I signed it to catch up on a couple of postings – I logged into Blogger like I normally do. However, something very strange happened. Upon completion of the auto-login to the Google account things were completely different.

How different were they? Not too much, just that – the language on everything was now Spanish rather than English. Apparently, Google’s Blogger decided to detect that my IP address was coming from a location here in Cancun, Mexico and reacted to that. Every link and instructional information was now in Spanish on my Dashboard – without evening asking me if that was my choice. Very odd behavior.

Furthermore, it took me a few seconds to find and realize where the I could change the setting for language because 1) I am not completely fluent in Spanish anymore, and 2) I have never really looked for our cared about the languages setting. However, I hit the drop-down for language and found “Ingles – English” and everything went back to normal.

Here’s the odd part, I have logged into Blogger from several different countries including Germany and India and have not had this behavior. I actually suggest that the automatic language detection and changing for someone who already has a Google and a Blogger account that is set to English is a bad idea and bad user experience.

I guess I need to report this to the folks at Blogger as a bug that needs to get fixed.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Xel-Ha Natural Aquarium and Dolphin Swim

The second part of our tour today was to spend the afternoon at the Xel-Ha natural aquarium which is located just a few miles from the Mayan ruins of Tulum. Among the fun and exploring you can do at Xel-Ha, there is also the opportunity to swim with the dolphins provided by Dolphinos – that operate several facilities on the Mexican Caribbean.

Xel-Ha Dolphin Jumps over in Cancun, Mexico

Part of our “package” was the all-inclusive deal for the Xel-Ha. That meant we had not only had access to the park, but we also had use of showers, bathrooms, floats, life jackets, hammocks, river train, and bag to transport your belongings. Also, snorkel equipment with a free snorkel tube, towels and a family-sized locker. Best of all, meals and beverages in any of our restaurants, tips and taxes are also included. The cost for the all-inclusive package is about $20 more per adult, so if you have a meal and a drink or two – you come out ahead, especially if you use any of their equipment, lockers, etc.

Upon arriving shortly after 12:00 we were hungry, so we promptly sat down and enjoyed a Mexican buffet lunch. Service was good and the food was decent – pretty standard Mexican fair, tortillas, tortilla chips, guacamole, beef, pork, and an assortment of various vegetables and deserts. Corona beer and Pepsi products are also available – everything included.

After a quick lunch we gathered our belongings by our locker to head to the river float. A rude French lady (surprised?) squeezed in while we were putting our stuff in the locker and tried to lecture me about something. I was equally rude back to her as I was not about to take her unnecessary attitude. A little index finger waving at her fixed the situation and we were on our way.

Floating down the river is an excellent way to get more oriented to the park. You grab some snorkeling gear at the top for a $20 deposit, put your goods you do not want to carry with you in a locked bag that is taken downstream, and jump in either a single or double inner tube. From there, you can float down the river or swim & snorkel your way down through many attractions. You pass the cliff jump (Cliffs of Courage or Valor), the wall climb. In many cases you can bail from your floating session to check out some of the wildlife.

There were a decent number of fish when in the water, but either due to the current or the time of day with the wind, it was a little cloudy. The surprise of the float down was the fact that a rather large turtle 3-4 feet in size popped up right in front of Ashley’s raft for a few seconds. I bailed out of the tube to take a quick picture with the waterproof camera – he stuck his head out of the water for a few moments until Ashley’s tube almost floated over him and then made a dive to the bottom.

The snorkeling overall was ok. There was a good number of fishes, especially around the entrance zones where fish food was provided. However, today the conditions were pretty cloud, it may have been the later time in day and some wind that contributed to it. The only annoyance here were that a couple of tourist kids (actually from Orange County, I believe) pulled a couple of shells with living creatures in them and brought them back to shore. I made a comment about it being illegal, but was basically ignored. Unfortunately, no workers were near by. Unbelievable.

After exploring Xel-Ha, we headed for our highly anticipated event of the day, a swimming session with the dolphins. After a quick check-in we watched a 10 minute video describing the aquarium and how the dolphins came to be there. Then we headed into the pool to greet the dolphins.

We were grouped with 2 little girls from Pennsylvania, one that was chatty with Ashley and the other was a little more shy. Their mom was watching from the side and taking pictures. In addition a German couple completed our English speaking group of six.

The experience overall lasted about 50 minutes or so. We had a lot of fun, and while there were various types of interactions, my two favorite had to be the playtime with the dolphins as well as the foot-push.

Xel-Ha Dolphin Swim with Ashley in Cancun, Mexico

The playtime was great, because rather than it being just a quick trick or a pose for a photo – you interacted somewhat with the dolphins. Mainly amounted to feeling and touching them when they went by – still fun none-the-less. The foot push was a tremendous amount of fun, although a little painful. In our case, one of the dolphins was taking a break so it was a single dolphin foot-push rather than a double. What that meant to me is that all the nose pressure was on my left foot which left it a little sore afterwards. That being said, seeing the dolphin pop up behind you and then push you 150-200 feet through the water were impressive.



As with any experience such as this, there are a number of photos and videos that are taken with the opportunity to purchase. I am not a fan of purchasing pre-made photos at places like this because usually the photo quality of the prints is mediocre and fades over time. Luckily, a CD of a 7-megapixel (unfortunately not 10-megapixel like my G7) is available with 8 pictures for $89. A little on the expensive side, but more valuable than a $19 large picture with so-so quality. Costco photos, here we come!

The video was also available at $129 or more, but the video cameraman missed my foot-push so that was definitely out.

Xel-Ha was a fun experience, but next time I would elect to spend a little more time there. If you are not doing a dolphin experience with Dolphinos, then it is probably the right amount of time to spend there – a half day in addition to Tulum. With the dolphin experience added-in, we missed some of the notable sites. Not a huge deal, just something to keep in mind.

Another popular natural aquarium on the coast near Cancun is Xcaret, which is located in Playa del Carmen on the Mexican coast, and is closer to Cancun than Xel-Ha. However, if you are looking at doing both the Tulum Ancient Mayan City and one of the ecological experiences – then Xel-Ha is the right choice. There are also some thoughts on various reviews on the Internet that Xcaret is not fully recovered from hurricane Wilma. We did not visit it, so we cannot comment.

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Tulum – The Ancient Mayan City on the Yucatan Peninsula

Part 1 of today’s tours is to visit the Ancient Mayan city of Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula just about 80 miles south of Cancun, Mexico. It is one of the two more popular Mayan ruins here on the peninsula. The other, Chichen Itza is a little farther inland and also considered one of the new 7 wonders of the world. Later this afternoon we will be visiting Xel-Ha and swimming with the dolphins. Too much fun!

Tulum, Mexico Ancient Mayan City Temple

This tour, as well as the other ones we are taking this week was booked with Olympus Tours. They seemed to have the best website out there on Cancun, not to mention they are the in house provider here at the Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort.

Ashley squishing the Tulum Temple

Our pick-up time this morning was 7:20am which made for an early wake-up and a quick bus ride over to Senor Frogs in the Cancun Hotel Zone. After waiting for a few minutes there and looking inside Mr. Frog, we jumped back on the bus for the hour and a half journey to Tulum. Based on the weather this morning, it should be a great day – a few clouds in the sky, but very sunny. Much better than things looked last night!

After a quick stop at Xel-Ha to drop off a few people who were spending the entire day there, we took the bus another 10 minutes to Tulum. Getting off the bus there reminded me somewhat of the Taj Mahal, where I had been just a little over a week ago. Just because there are a number of stands and vendors before you take the 500M (3/8 mile) walk to the Tulum Ancient Mayan city ruins. That being said, the vendors here are a lot less aggressive than those around the Taj. (If you do not want to walk, there is a tram you can take for $2 USD or 20 pesos to get up the hill. It’s not a steep walk, but can be tiring due to the heat)

Tulum means “wall” or “fence” in ancient Mayan, and that is apparent at the entrance as you walk through a white limestone wall to enter the city. Immediately visible are several iguanas, of very decent size just about everywhere you look. A baby (18” or so) iguana comes up next to us and a couple of people almost step on it. I knew there were iguanas in this area; I just did not expect to see so many of them. The picture below is of a rather large iguana – about 3-4 feet in length.

Tulum, Mexico Iguana Picture

The tour guide did a great job of taking us around the buildings and explaining everything. Tulum is a beautiful place because of its proximity to the Caribbean Sea. From all over the city you see glimpses of the clear blue water while admiring the ruins.

The Tulum Ruins are set against the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea

As you make your way up and around the main temple, you can go down the backside of the cliffs to play in the water if you want. Or, there are some great locations to snap a couple of photos of either the Sea or the ruins themselves.

There are a number of tourists at the Tulum ruins as one may expect, with a large number of them being European – French, German, and Italians. Definitely some Mexican and American tourists – just not as many as you might normally expect.

The tour of the ruins in all takes about 2 hours from the time leaving Xel-Ha until you are back on your bus. It’s well worth the stop – and in many cases due to the use of white limestone makes it a beautiful, yet eroding place of historical importance. If you are in Cancun, Mexico – make the trip!

Tulum Temple Limestone Construction Close-up

Have you been to Tulum? Let me know with a comment!

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Journey to Cancun, Mexico to Vacation

Today we are headed east and down to Cancun, Mexico for a one-week vacation. We are staying in the Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort, thanks to Hilton HHonor points that we have been accumulating over the past several months. The journey took a little longer today than we would have hoped for, but at least we made it.

The trip to the terminal was actually the easiest part. We left early enough, plus it was a Sunday morning so no traffic to be spoke of on Highway 101 or Interstate 405. The Parking Spot was relatively empty other than a lady walking into her car door. Even the United terminal was not too bad, given that our flight left at 10:20am and the rush of flights to the east coast had already left.

But, then the fun began. As it approached 9:00am and our wonderful Ted flight (since when did Ted make International flights to Mexico?) was not at the gate, I had a feeling that something was up. Then, a few minutes later we were moved to Gate 70A from Gate 72. Since the flight to Washington/Baltimore was already late leaving – I knew we were in for a long day. Not only had weather in the Washington, D.C. area delayed flights on the ground, but something was holding up our Ted Airbus A320 out of Las Vegas.

Once the plane made it in from Las Vegas, we were already scheduled to leave an hour late. Then, there was an issue with the Airbus A320 equipment. The side emergency exit raft was reporting issues and the ground crew could not easily fix it without taking the airplane out of service. What that meant that even though our flight was scheduled to be over water for only 25 minutes, it exceeded the FAA regulations. In turn, we now had to fly only over land (other than the take-off from LAX – adding an extra hour to the flight time.

The damage? Over 3 hours in total on the delay front. It could have been worse, it simply meant that we arrived into Cancun after dark and 8:00pm, the cut-off to picking up our tickets for our Tulum and Xel-Ha trip tomorrow. Nothing that a quick call to the concierge could not fix.

Upon arriving, it was very over-cast and humid – to be expected. Warmer than Bangalore, India where I had just been – but cooler than New Delhi – good news. The weather is supposed to be this way all week with occasional showers – although we hope for better.

Transportation to the Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort by Balam and the nice Suburban SUV was nice and easy – $50 for the round trip. We ended up with a great ocean view room with a large balcony at the resort. An free upgrade to a Villa due to Hilton HHonors status was available, but only with a garden view so we choose that. Very nice room still, and nothing to complain about -- especially for a free 7-night stay.

Flight and Trip to Cancun, Mexico to the Hilton Cancun Beach and Golf Resort

The concierge at this resort gets huge two-thumbs up. Not only did they contact us via email in advance of our trip to help with the planning, but they took care of our late arrival issue and tickets tomorrow with ease.

After our tiring trip we had a quick meal at the Spices restaurant and rested for our trip’s early morning. This resort reminds me a lot of the Hilton Hawaiian Village – I will draw some camparisons later in the week!

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sony PSP - Networking Configuration Guide (Tutorial)

I have been using my PSP an awful lot lately, and will most likely be spending a lot of time on the Sony Playstation Portable tomorrow with my flight to Cancun, Mexico. One of the great features of the Sony PSP is the fact that you can connect wirelessly via standard WiFi or an 802.11 standard. This will enable you to connect to the Internet to get games and updates, connect with other players. It will even work if you are in an airport to browse the web!

The configuration is pretty straight forward, but I am publishing this how-to guide in order to help those of you who may have not done a lot of wifi configurations before. Best of luck, and please let me know with a comment below if this works for you!

Here is the step-by-step guide:
1. It goes without saying, but you need to turn on your Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) with the button on the left.

2. Verify that you are in a location that is WiFi enabled or make sure your Wireless LAN device / router is turned on and ready to receive wireless traffic.

3. Optional step if the first pass configuration does not work. You may need to perform a factory reset of your Sony PSP. The steps to complete this are to scroll to "Settings", then click on "Restore Default Settings". While you may not lose any information or data, you may need to reset your wallpapers. The Sony PSP will then walk you through configuring your name, date, time, and the rest of the defaults.

4. Power down your PSP to completely reset it. Wait approximately 10 seconds, then power it back on.

5. Scroll to "Network Settings" under "Settings"

6. Select "Infrastructure Mode"

7. Select "New Connection" and specify your name such as "Home", "My Network", or "LAX Airport"

8. Navigate to the wireless LAN settings for 802.11 WiFi at "WLAN Settings". Now select the "Scan" option.

9. After the network scan is completed, you should see the name of your router (or a local wifi connection) appear in the list on your Playstation Portable. If it is, then proceed to step 10. If it is not, and you followed all of the steps so far, then something is wrong with your PSP, or the settings, or a combination of both. Alternatively, you may have your SSID setting on your router set to not visible or scannable. You may want to correct this to make the setup easier.

10. Now navigate to "WLAN Security Setting". If you do not have encryption setup on your router, then leave the option as "None".

11. If your are running encryption on your Wireless router, select the type of technology support, either WEP or WPA.

12. Navigate to "Address Settings". Select "Easy"

13. Navigate to "Setting List". Verify that your settings are correct.

14. Navigate to the next screen and press X to save your settings. You should get a message that says "Save Completed. Test Connection". Press X.

15. You should get two quick display messages. The first should say "connecting to access point." The next should say "obtaining IP address".

Congratulations! If you received these messages, you are now able to conenct wireless on your PSP! Now, go use your PSP to do the same thing you can do on your PC now, only smaller and slightly slower. In fact you can even connect and play games with others.

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Sony PSP - Freezes, Restarts, and Fixed?

Starting on my last trip to India, I was putting some good time in on my Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) on the 20+ hours of flying across the Atlantic, Europe, and the Middle East. My game of choice was the recently purchases FIFA 2007 Soccer game by EA Sports. While it was providing some great enjouyment, that is not the subject of this article.

Over the the past couple of weeks, I have been noticing at random that the Playstation Portable would freeze up during the loading of a sequence or screen and then just restart. Sort of making me feel like my PSP was becoming a Windows 95 machine. There seemed to be little warning or pattern to the problem.

I had recently upgraded to the PSP System Software Version 3.51 and wondered if it could be the issue. Today I checked and saw that there is a new a PSP System Software Version 3.52 now available. According to the Sony PSP website:

Game
- New for 3.52: Support for PLAYSTATION®Network titles has been expanded.
Network
- New for 3.50: You can now connect a PSP® system to a PS3™ system via the Internet using [Remote Play].
- New for 3.50: [Communication Settings] has been added as an option to the [Remote Play] menu.
- New for 3.50: [RSS Channel Guide] has been added as a feature under [RSS Channel].
Other
- New for 3.51: A security patch was added to address security vulnerabilities in the system software.

So, I have now applied the patch in addition to giving a nice cleaning with canned air to the system. Hopefully this will fix the PSP reboot and lock / freezing issues I am having.

Have you had this problem? How did you fix it?

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

PSP - Analog Stick Replacement Guide

If you have owned your Sony PSP for awhile, at some point in time it gets over used. Given the heavy usage of the analog stick (or joystick) that controls much of the movement in the games, it is a part that often fails with the PSPs.

For that reason, here is a tutorial on how to repair your PSP's analog stick and get it back into playing order! First off, in order to get started you are going to need two main items. The first is a very small screwdriver, and the second is a replacement analog stick for your PSP that you can get from a number of locations -- and definitely from eBay.

1. You need to first disassemble the PSP to remove the faceplate and get access to the analog stick. My posting on this is here.

2. Remove the analog nub & mechanism which requires the removal of 2 screws. These are different from first screws, so keep them separately. Be careful not to twist the plate as it may crack and make sure to keep track of the washer that covers the mechanism.

Sony Playstation Portable PSP Analog Stick Replacement Tutorial Guide 1

3. Carefully inspect the nub and analog stick to make sure it is clean and ready to install.

Sony Playstation Portable PSP Analog Stick Replacement Tutorial Guide 1

4. Replace analog nub mechanism with washer, align the screws and tighten. Do not tighten too much or you could crach the housing & faceplate.

You have now successfully replaced your Analog Stick for your Playstation Portable.

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Slap Your iPod! That Will Fix It!

This is a pretty funny way that you can fix your iPod that has stopped working. It is funny in two different ways. The first is, that you can abuse your iPod by slapping or striking it. The second of course is, that without a ton of problems and needing to take it apart or replace a hard drive.

I would actually like to take credit for finding the solution, but I cannot. A friend of mine at work mentioned it to me after he had a problem with his Apple Video iPod and wandered across Josh Highlands Blog. That's the ironic part.....

The blog takes you through the details of disassembling, repairing, and replacing your hard drive on an iPod 4th Generation. There are some great pictures and how-to descriptions. However, things really get interesting when you read the comments.

If your Apple iPod is giving you the Sad Face or showing the File Folder icon, you may think you iPod may need some serious repair. The reality is that it may just be a little frozen up and it needs a good jolt.

How do you fix it? The prevailing technique is to slap, strike or hit the iPod. You do this by holding your iPod in one hand (with the click-wheel up) and striking the side with your other hand on the side (not the top). In many cases this has fixed a seemingly "broken" iPod. This is the first step and pass towards fixing or repairing the iPod.

The second step? That is to smack it on the back of the Apple iPod to see if that will fix it. Note: Never strike it on the top as you could damage the LCD screen on your iPod.

The final step? If the first two techniques have not had any luck for you, then try this. Slide the hold button back and forth 10 times fairly quickly. Then, then hold down down the menu /middle button / pause & play buttons at the same time. The will cause the iPod to enter a special mode. Give the iPod one last smack, and voial! You're fixed!

It has even worked on 3rd Generation, 4th Generation, and 5th Generation units. Just ask my friend Jonathan who recently tried it and solved his problem!

Did this technique work for you? Let me know with a comment!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blackberry 8800 – Will my GPS Work Internationally? Not in Germany Either!

Yesterday I mentioned the problems I had with getting my GPS to work in India with Google Maps.

Well, now it appears that the problem is more world-wide with the Blackberry 8800 and that the GPS functionality will only work in the United States.

Why am I suggesting this? Well, during my lay-over in Frankfurt on Sunday -- I decided to test out the GPS (Gobal Positioning System) function on my Blackberry 8800 while connected to the German networks. While wandering around the International terminals at the Frankfurt airport, I tried several different times to locate a GPS signal.

However, each time I attempted to connect -- I received the same old message -- Signal to weak to pinpoint location. Assumption is now that the GPS functionality only works in the United States which is a complete bummer.

I'm going to give it a final try in Cancun & Cozumel, Mexico next week. Let's hope it works.

Have you had the GPS functionality work for you outside of the United States?

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Blackberry 8800 – Will my GPS Work Internationally? Not in India.

Well, at least do not count on it.

Without first checking the United States military and policy on the use of the Global Positioning System (GPS), my assumption was that the GPS system in my RIM Blackberry 8800 would work both in India and Germany. Since Google Maps had pretty good coverage, I was looking forward to the GPS assistance. It seemed reasonable that since it uses satellite coverage to locate the signals that they could still be located in India.

In fact, BlackberryCool posted just a few days earlier that Air-Tel, which is the cell phone provider in the Bangalore area (Hutch is another popular wireless carrier in India) was announcing their own GPS Navigation software for the Blackberry 8800 series of phones. GPS must work there, even on the US phones, correct?

However, while I was in India I could not get any GPS signal. I knew that my TeleNav GPS Navigator probably would not work since I configured it for the USA, but I assumed I would get some signal. Nope, nothing, zilch. By going to Options --> Advanced Options --> GPS I could not get latitude or longitude information or locate any satellites. Through Google Maps I tried as well, but the error message that kept coming back – “Signal to weak to determine location”.

This was not just in Bangalore, but also occurred in New Delhi and Agra. Bummer, on a couple of occasions it would have helped!

Has anyone else tried the GPS internationally? Did I miss a setting change? Let me know with a comment.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Leaving New Delhi

I’m sitting in the Oberi Clipper Lounge here at the Ghandi International Airport here in New Delhi, India. A benefit of my Star Alliance Gold status with United Airlines, Lufthansa gave me entrance to this, yes clap you hands now, a non-smoking lounge. What an unexpected relief.

On my previous visit here to New Delhi, there was a different lounge (currently called the Port Lounge) that was unbearable if you do not like smoke. And, I do not like smoke. I was mainly expecting to spend the time waiting in the main boarding area given with the extra time before the wonderful 2:25am departure for Frankfurt.

I ended up getting to the airport in record time, but for a few minutes I did not know if I would even make it here tonight. After confirming the 10:00pm pick-up time (allowing 1-2 hours for possibly bad traffic) with the driver after our trip to the Taj Mahal, I mentioned I would re-confirm at 9:30pm given the experience the previous night with no driver.

So, Jonathan and I spent the day relaxing around the Hilton Trident Gurgaon – 9:30pm rolled around. I called the mobile number of the driver, no answer and no voice mail. Called the bell desk and asked if the driver had checked in – no luck there either. 10:00pm rolls around and the same things happens. No driver, no car. Now I am getting a little worried – how am I going to get to the airport since there are not a line of taxis outside and the hotel does not provide transportation to the airport. Then, I call the driver’s company to see if they can track anything down.

15 nervous minutes pass and then both the hotel and the driver’s company call to say the driver is now there. Apparently his cell phone was just on silent and he did not get the calls. Whew, a relief. In the end it did not matter one bit, there was no traffic to the airport – it only took 15 minutes, and the lines were relatively short to clear immigration to get to the lounge – with an extra 3 hours to spare.

The only bad note about the lounge is that the wireless Internet access if jacked up. Basically, I tried to purchase and hours worth at rs.42 (about $1 USD), but the registration died before I could even get to the payment page. Perhaps that is better anyways. Unfortunately it means that this posting may get a little delayed, perhaps until tomorrow in Germany?

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Agra and the Taj Mahal

Visiting the Taj Mahal is a magical experience right out of a fairy tale. That being said, it is not a trip for the faint of heart. This would apply to you, especially if you get nervous about head-on collisions, accidents and tight spaces.

The trip for Jonathan and I started out at 1:50am, just some 90 minutes since we arrived from Bangalore and had our New Delhi cab experience. We’re planning to meet his brother and some one he works with at the Taj Mahal since they are in Delhi as well – a nice coincidence. Our driver, Kamal’s car is a standard compact car, and there is a decent amount of the space in the back seats, but it is not luxurious by any means. Think Mitsubishi Mirage or comparable in size.



The reason that the car is somewhat important is that we’re going to be spending 8 of the next 10 hours in it. Agra, where the Taj Mahal resides is only about 200km (120 miles) south of Delhi, yet it takes 4 hours to get there. And the drive is crazy. Really crazy. You feel lucky to make it there and back without and accident and thankful drivers like Kamal are there to navigate it for yourself.

Driving in the cities is busy but it is generally at slow speeds, so a little more organized chaos. Once you get out of the city, all bets are off. Since you can generally drive faster, the risks are higher. Fortunately it is mainly a divided four-lane road with two lanes on each side. But as an example, think cruising along a highway at 100km/hr (~60mph) and out of nowhere a farm tractor towing a trailer full of bricks behinds it decides to cross the street in front of you, or perhaps a large semi (if you can call them that here) does similar. That’s pretty common place.



On top of that every little city has a “police” checkpoint where they have setup barriers that alternately block one of the two lanes on your side creating somewhat of a slalom course for the cars. It causes even the few cars along the road at this time in the morning to bunch up. In addition, a lot of the transport trucks line one side of a lane (1/2 a lane) in several sections along the way.

All of this makes it difficult to sleep, but we both manage a few hours of sleep between the all the chaos and commotion on the roadways. We pick-up our guide Manish around 5:50am and get to the Taj Mahal parking lot 10 minutes before the gates open up at 6:00am. Interestingly, you have to park about a mile from the entrance to the Taj Mahal as cars and other vehicles are not supposed to get any closer because of pollution. We take a little electric rickshaw / golf cart to the point where we have to walk.



Manish, our guide advises us to stick close to him and watch out for “hawkers” or basically people on the street trying to sell you little trinkets and such. No different if than if you have been to places closer to the United States. For example, Tijuana, Mexico would be similar. We walk a couple of blocks to the East Gate entrance. Manish buys our tickets what we wait in line at Rs. 750, or almost $20 for entrance. Surprisingly expensive for a wonder of the world, but worth it.

It’s really hard to describe the Taj Mahal, but it is breathtaking. After wading through the security lines, longer for the 6:00am opening you enter a vast courtyard. However, it is only a precursor to what you will find inside.



Wikipedia has excellent descriptions of the Taj Mahal, so I am not going to waste your time trying to repeat that. Rather, more of my impressions.

When you walk through the gateway, you can see the symmetry from a far. Then when you enter the courtyard, the Taj Mahal is there in the all of its splendor. Everyone takes a couple of shots in front of it, and then starts to walk towards it. The Taj Mahal is pretty darn tall. With base, it’s about as high as the length of a football field. However, you do not really notice it from a distance – as you approach it seems larger and larger until you realize just how impressive it is.

Approaching the podium, the shoes must be removed or covered – we put on some booties and proceed. Perhaps the most surprising part once we enter is the size of the main room. While all of the work and marble in-layings were impressive it was much smaller inside than I thought it would be.

Also, almost as impressive was the base for the “black” Taj Mahal that was across the river where Shah Jahan was going to build before his son imprisoned him. Just a few thoughts of what could have been.

The Taj is an amazing experience and should not be passed up should you be anywhere near it. That is of course, if you can handle the drive!

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Catching a Taxi in Delhi & Travel in India

Have you ever had to hail a cab in New Delhi, India? Let's just say that it is quite an experience -- something that you want to avoid if at all possible. I had my first chance to do this today, and I would prefer to avoid it on future trips. Here's why.....

Today was my last day in Bangalore, India and I was very much looking forward to the trip to New Delhi today for two reasons. The first reason is that tomorrow, I will be going to see the Taj Mahal in Agra. Although the drive promises to be long (4-hours each way), I am sure it will be worth it. The second reason is that I am close to going home. Shortly after the trip to Agra, I will jump on a flight back to the United States -- and that means Steak and Beef.

Our offices were pretty close to the airport, so there was no real problem getting there. The wait to get our tickets and boarding passes from Jet Airways was nothing to complain about either. We cleared security in about 15 minutes and had 40 minutes to wait until boarding time.

In some comedy relief, the seat that Jonathan and I selected happened to be right in front of this water fountain where people could come and get cups and get *purified* water for a drink. The only problem? It was out of order. I cannot tell you how many times people came up to the machine and played around with it trying to get it to work. I thought about posting an out-of-order sign on it, but I had no tape with me.

After boarding the airplane, a new phenomena occurred. We were informed by the pilots that we were being delayed by 40 minutes due to "terminal" and "security" congestion. I read that code for a few people did not plan ahead, were late, and the rest of us were waiting for them. Had this been LAX, we would have been out of there.

So, now to the subject of the story -- we arrived into Delhi in all a little over an hour late after a short runway delay. After picking up the bag and heading out the door -- Jonathan and I could not locate our driver ANYWHERE. There was supposed to be a placard with our names on it so our driver could take us to our hotel. Nothing. We searched through the crowd a few times before starting to get nervous.

Remembering a couple of bad stories from friends, as well as the fact that there was a prepaid taxi window in the airport, I was able to negotiate our way back into the terminal past the machine-gun carrying guard. After several minutes in line we placed our order for a taxi ride to Gurgaon -- to the Hilton Trident there. Then the fun began.

Getting into a cab was like a bad game of Frogger. Dodging departing taxis and negotiating with each of the drivers. All the while some locals are trying to "find" a taxi for you in order to collect a "finders" fee. Enough of that, Jonathan and I ran towards a cab with no one in it or near it and jumped in. The taxi was like a VW bus, but smaller and every metal part must have been thinner.

When checking in with the pre-paid taxi person the driver was not happy -- maybe because of our hotel's location and the proximity to the airport. After a minute of arguing about something, the pre-paid administrator person took his taxi license, wrote it down, and gave him a look like -- you're taking them there. Great, just what we need, a disgruntled driver.

However, the trip was quick and we were at the hotel within 10 minutes. I gave the driver a couple hundred rupees to hopefully easy his pain. From the outside at night -- the Hilton Trident Gurgaon was beautiful -- especially for the price on $225 USD a night when compared to where we were staying in Bangalore. Trip Advisor had shown some reports of folks feeling like it was over priced -- not sure what they paid or who booked them. However, at $225 USD a night, it is a bargain.

Unfortuantely, it looks like there will not be much time to enjoy it -- we head out to Agra and the Taj Mahal in just over 90 minutes!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bangalore's Paparazzi - One of the World's 82 Best?

Good question. As we drove through Central Bangalore tonight on our way to the Royal Orchid Central hotel, we ran into an interesting signs, "One of the World's Best 82 restaurants." Seeing that sign and such acclaim, we were looking forward to meeting some family and co-workers at the Paparazzi restaurant located on the 10th floor with an expansive view of the night Bangalore skyline.

In fact, The Hindu had this to say about it:

`Paparazzi' among world's elite restaurants

CHENNAI : `Paparazzi', the global cuisine restaurant owned by the Royal Orchid group, has been selected amongst an elite group of restaurants worldwide by travel magazine Conde Naste Traveller, in recognition of its "great food, outstanding service and sophisticated style." Royal Orchid Hotels is the largest hotel chain in Bangalore. The group plans to add three hotels in Pune.
The sophisticated style of the Paparazzi restaurant is apparent when you walk in. A smallish dining area set with modern furnishing and tableware. However, on this night this is where the good impressions would end.

Our first bad experience was when it was time to order drinks. In terms of Gin, there were 5 different types on there starting with Bombay Sapphire. When someone in our party requested it, we were told they were out. Then the second item on the list, out. Then the third item on the list, out. Finally when it got down to Gordon's Dry Gin, that was available. They passed.

Then it came time for the beer list. I started with a request for Amstel Light, and another person requested Karlsberg. Both were unavailable. Given the experience with the Gin we asked what was available. Kingfisher. Corona. Heineken, but only two of them left. Not a good start for any restaurant, especially one that was supposedly one of the 82 best in the world.

The night went pretty much like the drink order. Fortunately we got by the appetizers without anythings that they were out of, but several things on the dinner menu were out or unavailable. At least we were all able to order.

The food itself was not bad, actually pretty decent but nothing to really rave about. The service was slow, which ended up leading to us being asked to leave shortly after we finished dinner -- at 11:30pm. (For those of you not aware of Bangalore, everything closes at about 11:30pm due to law. That is a little difficult to get used to when you have been living in the Los Angeles area for awhile and most places do not close before 2:00am.)

If you are planning to visit Paparazzi, do not let this discourage you, especially if you do not care about the drinks or food. The view and atmosphere was very pleasant and the food that we did get was prepared as expected.

Have you been to Paparazzi? Was your experience any different?

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bangalore - The Journey and Arrival

Well, we made it here to Bangalore late on Saturday evening -- India time. The journey was long, but without issues so that was pretty nice. I am all checked in at my hotel here in Bangalore, The Chancery Pavilion.

The first segment to Frankfurt was relatively uneventful. It seems that Lufthansa in the last year have upgraded the majority of their airplanes of the Boeing 747-400 nature be the long haul planes. That's great because you get close to lie-flat seating in Business class, although it is at a slight angle. And, it is great to know where your seats will be, so I always check out Seat Guru. Basically this flight was really about eating and sleeping and that was pretty much it. I also caught the movie "Shooter" with Mark Wahlberg. Entertaining at least.

Our transfer time in Frankfurt was fairly short, so I missed out on my favorite attractions in Germany, a nice weissbier. Sad as that may sound, the 3 hour layover on the way back will provide ample opportunity for that. The terminal transfer went fine and we arrived at our gate just 5 minutes before boarding. My co-worker's brother Brian also happened to be on the same flight as us from Frankfurt to Bangalore. They were scolded for greeting each other through the gate before Jonathan and I check in. Oh, well.

The flight to Bangalore was a little more interesting this time. While last time our path took us a little ways north through Iran, this time we hit parts of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The mountains out my window to the right near Kirkuk were pretty impressive and we had a nice fighter-jet escort off our wing for about 3 hours of the journey. Hmmmm, both exciting and interesting - makes you feel really safe.

They feed you way too much on these flights. The first leg had dinner & breakfast on it and now after having a heavy lunch earlier, the dinner is coming around. I am passing on this one. Eating 4 large meals in 20 hours is just a little much for me. I decided to pass on the second dinner of the night and took a little nap.

Arrival in Bangalore was nothing too special or out of the ordinary. Actually, it was fairly similar to my arrival in Mumbai last year. I quickly changed $100 to rupees in the airport (38 per $1 USD, down from 46 per $1 USD my last trip), picked up the luggage and cleared customs. Walking outside was just as entertaining as it was my first time to Mumbai with hundreds of drivers lining the walkway holding signs with names. It takes us a couple minutes of searching then we locate our names and grab our drivers.

We arrived at the hotel, the Chancery Pavilion shortly later - only about a 15 minute journey from the airport. The hotel bills itself as a 5-star business hotel, although I am not entirely convinced based on previous stays in India. Definitely not a dive, but also definitely not 5-star in my opinion. More on that to come. I am tired, so I am going to get some sleep.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Flight to Bangalore Leaves in 1 Hour

I am sitting here in the Business Class lounge at Los Angeles International (LAX) airport almost sure that I left something behind for this trip. I am heading to Bangalore (Bengaluru), India for a buisness trip and my flight thru Frankfurt, Germany on Lufthansa Airlines leaves in just about an hour. While it is too late to get anything I forgot, I have this nagging fear that I left something major behind. However, while at home I double and triple checked everything. Ashley even quizzed me. Oh well, I am sure if I left something behind -- I can live without it for a week.

The trip to the airport today was pretty uneventful. I picked up Jonathan, my co-worker on the way to LAX and traffic was not too much to complain of.

The biggest surprise is that my coveted 2A seat on the Boeing 747-400 airplane was somehow changed by Lufthansa and I ended up with an isle seat some rows further back in the middle section of three. I complained just a little, but apparently there was nothing Lufthansa could -- or wanted to do.

From there, the baggage line was the longest I had seen in the Tom Bradley International Terminal. In fact, the north-most (right hand) side was backed all the way up to the door. We choose a slightly shorter line, but it still took awhile to get through the baggage drop-off -- almost 20 minutes. However, then the normal security line was pretty short and we zoomed right through.

Since my last International trip, the Tom Bradley International terminal at LAX has undergone some significant changes. Better to say that it is undergoing some changes. Apparently they are re-doing the lounge and now this Business lounge is off the main terminal -- meaning you have to jump in a bus, drive about a mile and half over the runways and go to some make-shift area where a bunch of portable structures are.

For the temporary nature of it, the Business lounge is pretty nice. And, its was actually fun driving across the runways, er jetways with planes and everything going around us.

Looks like it is time to head towards the gate to board the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, catch up with you once I get to Bangalore.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Verizon FiOS - It's Working!

Great news to report -- finally, after almost a week of frustrations with Verizon FiOS's customer service, my FiOS TV and more importantly the HDTV service is working. The Oxnard service center, true to their word was able to get me setup.

Overall the picture quality now is pretty darn good. The best news is that over Time Warner -- all of the HD channels are included, you do not get nickel and dimed for every additional channel like HDNET that you want!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Verizon FiOS - Almost there?

Today I did not have time to give Verizon FiOS a call with everything going on at work and my pending trip to Bangalore, India on Friday. That being said, I had a somewhat pleasant surprise in the afternoon.

When I checked my Gmail inbox, I had a message from the manager of operations for Ventura County, California seeing if there was anything that still had not been resolved. After exchanging a couple of emails with him, I received a call from one of the folks out of the Oxnard service center.

While she could not help me out immediately as the provisioning & billing center was closed, she commited that she would facilitate the closure of the issue, by Wednesday (tomorrow). I must admit, I am hoping this whole ordeal is almost over.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Verizon FiOS – The Saga Continues

Well today is Monday evening and I still do not have the HDTV channels for my Verizon FiOS TV service. I feel like it is getting closer, but it is still taking too long. Here is today’s update.

I started today by placing a call to the Verizon call center to inquire about my HDTV television service for my TV. After a couple of minutes the call representative mentions that it is not on the account. I mention that I have a HDTV television set but no stations and he mentions that he should be able to take care of that for me.

After a couple of minutes, the customer service person comes back on the line and mentions that their systems are currently down (3rd time in a week when I have been on a call), and the changes cannot be made. However, he would make sure that the changes were made to my account when it came back up. And, that finally I should have the HDTV channels when 8:00pm came around.

As you might imagine, 8:00pm rolls around and still no HDTV. Looks like another night with sub-standard service from Verizon and their FiOS system.

On another note, I was contacted by a Verizon FiOS media contact based on my blog. Perhaps that will be more fruitful than going through the standard Verizon support process.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Happy 30th Birthday Ashley!

Yesterday, we hosted a party for Ashley’s 30th birthday at our house in Dos Vientos. While it was just a few days past Ashley’s 30th, it was the perfect time for the party given it was just a few days after the 4th of July holiday! In Evite fashion, we had sent out the invites a couple of weeks earlier.

Fortunately the weather cooperated as well in a pleasant and sunny 82 degrees. Approximately 45 friends and family showed up at our place to wish Ashley a happy 30th birthday. It was quite an exciting and fun filled afternoon; here are a couple of snapshots from Ashley’s 30th!





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Motorola Phone Tools - Bluetooth Setup Guide for MPT

The Motorola Phone Tools application, also known as MPT or Mobile Phone Tools has the ability to connect from your computer in three different ways; USB cable, Bluetooth, and Infrared. While the USB cable may be the you connect with your desktop computer, those of us on the go really want to be wireless as much as possible. In this case, the most important configuration for your Mobile Phone Tools installation and your Motorola phone is the Bluetooth configuration.

This guide with walk you through the steps required to get the Bluetooth setup. In each phone's case there may be slightly different steps that need to be taken in order to get your phone to connect. Fortunately, the MPT setup wizard provides some additional advice there in order to get your Bluetooth connectivity functioning properly.

Here are the step-by-step installation instructions:
1. Create a new profile for you phone. Once you have, click on the new profile on the 'OK' button. Make sure that your phone is disconnected from your computer.
Bluetooth Cell Phone Configuration for Motorola Phone Tools Step 1

2. Select the "Bluetooth" option from the list of available options and click on the "Next" button.
Bluetooth Cell Phone Configuration for Motorola Phone Tools Step 2

3. Find your phone from the list of available phones. I choose the RAZRV3x for my Motorola RAZR phone. Instructions are provided for how to enable Bluetooth so your PC can discover it. (For the RAZR V3 - Step 1 - On your phone, press the "Menu" key. Step 2 - Select "Settings". Step 3 - On the "Settings" menu, scroll to "Connection" and press "Select". Step 4 - On the "Connection" menu, select "Bluetooth Link". Step 5 - Scroll to "Setup" and press "Select". Step 6 - Scroll to "Power" and make sure bluetooth "Power" is "ON". If the Power is "OFF" change it to "ON". Step 7 - Press "Back". Step 8 - Select "Find Me". Your phone displays "Discoverable: 3 minutes" . When this text displays on your phone, click Next to continue with the Bluetooth Setup Wizard.)
Bluetooth Cell Phone Configuration for Motorola Phone Tools Step 3

4. The Wizard should detect your phone and it should show up as a "Motorola Phone" with a cell phone icon. Highlight your phone (in case you have other Bluetooth devices) and click on the "Next" button.
Bluetooth Cell Phone Configuration for Motorola Phone Tools Step 4

5. The Motorola Phone Tools setup will setup and install your mobile device via the Bluetooth connection.
Bluetooth Cell Phone Configuration for Motorola Phone Tools Step 5

6. The process will complete the installation process and automatically exit.
Bluetooth Cell Phone Configuration for Motorola Phone Tools Step 6

7. Motorola Phone Tools will appear and show your mobile phone connected via Bluetooth. Congratulations, you are now using Bluetooth!
Bluetooth Cell Phone Configuration for Motorola Phone Tools Step 7

Bluetooth instructions are compatible with the following Motorola Cellular Phones:
A1200, A1200e, A1200i, A1200r, A630, A732, A780, A780+, A835, A845, A910, c390, C698p, E1, E1 iTunes, E1000, E1070, E1070R, E2, E398, E398B, E550, E680, E680g, E680i, E690, E770, E770V, E790, E790 iTunes, E815, E815, E816m, E825, K1c, K1cm, K1m, K1mm, K1m-Sprint, K1s, K1v, K3, L2, L6, L6e, L6i, L6-imode, L7, L71, L72, L7c, L7c-SLVR Sprint, L7e, L7i, L7-imode, L9, L9-orange, Ming, Ming Refresh, Ming EDGE, MOTOKRZR K1, MOTOKRZR K1t, MOTOKRZR K3, MOTOKRZRmaxxK3, MOTORAZR maXX V3, MOTORAZR V3xx, MOTORAZR V9mm, MOTORAZR2V9HSDPA, MOTORAZRmaXXV3, MOTORIZR Z6, MOTOROKR E6, MOTOROKR E6, MOTOROKR E6e, PEBL U3, PEBL U6, PEBL-U6, Pico, RAZRmaxxV3i-mode, RAZRV3x, RAZR3xR, RAZRV3xv, RazrV3xx, RazrV3xxi, RazrV3xxv, RazrV6, RazrV6v, RazrV6vb, RazrV6vc, ROKR E1, ROKR E1 iTunes, SLVR RED, U5m, U6, V1075, V1100, V195, V197, V215, V280, V3, V3 CTP, V3/p, V323i, V325i, V330, V330i, V360, V360i, V360m, V360q, V360v, V361, V362, V365, V367p, V3am, V3b, V3c, V3c Rev2, V3cm, V3i, V3i EDGE, V3_iTunes, V3i_Screen3, V3iv, V3m, V3mm, V3m-Sprint, V3r, V3re, V3t, V3v, V3x, V3xr, V3xv, V500, V500m, V501, V505, V525, V525m, V535, V536, V540, V545, V547, V550, V551, V551j, V551m, V555, V557, V557p, V560, V600, V600i, V600m, V620, V635, V635i, V6maxx, V710, V710m, V8, V80, V9, V9m, V9mS, W385, W385 ROW, W510, W510-orange, Z3, Z3mS, V6m, Z6tv

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Motorola Phone Tools - How to Create Multiple Phone Profiles - Guide

If you have more than one Motorola phone, then you may want to your Motorola Phone Tools (MPT or Mobile Phone Tools) to manage the backups, phone book, calendar, and multimedia on both of the phones independently of each other from the same computer.

With the Motorola Phone Tools software, there is functionality so you can very easily setup a profile for each of your phones so that you can accomplish this with ease. This guide will describes the steps in order to accomplish this. If you have not purchased your copy of Mobile Phone Tools for your Motorola phone, then you may be able to purchase it from one of the sponsors on this page.

Here are the step-by-step instructions:
1. Open Motorola Phone Tools application, making sure that you none of your Motorola phones are connected to the computer (USB, Bluetooth, or Infrared)

2. The Mobile Phone Tools application will prompt you to make a selection of a profile.
3. Instead of selectin the profile, click on 'New' button.
4. Name the profile whatever you choose. It is often easiest to manage if you use the model of the phone or in the case of multiple phones, something like Ken's RAZR.
5. Then click on 'OK' to accept and then 'OK' again to confirm.
6. The Mobile Phone Tools application should ask you to install a new device or you may have to click on the re-detect button.
7. Select your preferred connection method, USB or Bluetooth and click Next
8. Plug the phone into the computer and let it install the phone to your new profile.
9. Repeat these steps for each phone that you want to add to your Mobile Phone Tools applications and profiles.

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Motorola Live Update Guide for Motorola Phone Tools - MPT 4.50 Upgrades to 4.51C

Upon the completion of my Motorola Phone Tools software, version 4.50 I wanted to make sure I had the most recent and updated version of the Mobile Phone Tools software. Motorola is nice enough to include and program call Motorola Live Update which checks the current version of your Motorola Phone Tools (aka MPT or Mobile Phone Tools) and then sees if there is a more up-to-date version.

In my particular case, the Motorola Live Update program identified that a newer version of the Motorola Phone Tools 4.50 was available, the lastest version showed as version 4.51c and was approximately 18MB in size.

This guide will take you through the update and installation process for Motorola Live Updatea and the MPT program. If you do not already have Motorola Phone Tools, there may be a sponsor on this page that has it available.

Here is the step-by-step guide:

1. The introduction to the installation process. Per the instructions, "The Motorola Phone Tools software you have may not be the latest available version. Motorola Live Update will now verify if your softwware version and download a more recent on if available." Make sure to click next to determine if there is a new version available.
Motorola Live Update, Mobile Phone Tools Version 4.50 to 4.51c Step 1

2. Motorola Live Update confirms that there is a new version available to take your MPT software from 4.50 to 4.51c at a size of 18.55MB -- the comment reads MPT061025008408. Click on "Next" to download the free update for the software.
Motorola Live Update, Mobile Phone Tools Version 4.50 to 4.51c Step 2

3. The download complete for the update to Motorola Phone Tools ENU. Click on "Next" to continue.
Motorola Live Update, Mobile Phone Tools Version 4.50 to 4.51c Step 3

4. Now that the download has completed, you have the option to do an immediate installation of the free upgrade. Click on the "Install" button to install the 4.51c update.
Motorola Live Update, Mobile Phone Tools Version 4.50 to 4.51c Step 4


5. The installation of the update completes in the background without any user intervention. Once it is done, you are presented with the final screen which has a checkbox to restart the Motorola Phone Tools ENU application. Click "Finish" to complete.
Motorola Live Update, Mobile Phone Tools Version 4.50 to 4.51c Step 5

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Motorola Phone Tools 4.5 – Windows XP Installation for MPT

Having purchased Motorola Phone Tools (aka MPT) last night, today I went ahead and tested the installation out on Windows XP. The installation went very well and there is not much to report with the installation of MPT 4.5 as I had reported on both Vista 32-bit and 64-bit installation. With Windows XP, it is mainly a matter of clicking 'next' throughout the installation.

If you’re interested, below is the how-to guide in order to install Motorola Phone Tools MPT Version 4.50 on your computer. If you do not have Motorola Phone Tools – you may be able to get it from a sponsor on this post.

Here is the step-by-step:
1.Start the installation and click on 'Next' to continue.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Windows XP Picture 1

2. Read the license agreement and click on 'I Agree.'
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Windows XP Picture 2

3. Choose complete installation, or custom if you want to specify a different installation directory.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Windows XP Picture 3

4. The Motorola Phone Tools prepares for the installation.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Windows XP Picture 4

5. The Motorola Phone Tools software and drivers install.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Windows XP Picture 5

6. Choose to Register Later or click on 'OK' to register now.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Windows XP Picture 7

7. A very specific warning to leave your V3 RAZR or other phone's data cable disconnected when you complete installation. After the initial connection setup, you will then connect the phone to the computer via the USB cable.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Windows XP Picture 8

8. Click on 'Finish' to complete the installation.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Windows XP Picture 9

This guide is compatible with the following phones: RAZR V3, RAZR V3i, RAZR V3c, A630, A830, A835, A840, A845, A860, A920, A1000, C305, C341c, C343, C343cr, C390, C698p, C975, C980, E310, E398, E550, E815, E815m, E816, E1000, E1070, M800, M900, ROKR E1, ROKR E2, E790, T720, T720c, T720i, T722, T722i, T725, T300p, T730c, T7, L6, L7, V8, PEBL, SLVR, U6, V6, C331, C332, C350, RAZR, V3, V3c, V3i, V3m, V180, V188, V360, A668, A780, E680, V220, V60, V60t, V60c, V60g, V60i, V60p, V60s, V60v, V60x, V65p, V66, V70, V80, V120, V120c, V120e, V120t, V120x, V260, V262, V265, V265m, V266, V276, V300, V300m, V325, V330, V330i, V400, V400p, V500, V501, V505, V510, V525, V525m, V535, V540, V545, V547, V550, V551, V551j, V551m, V555, V557, V557p, V560, V600, V600i, V600m, V620, V635, V635i, V710, V710m, V810, V872, V975, V980, V1050, MPX220, TIMEPORT, 270, 270c, 280, 280

Trackbacks:
Motorola Phone Tools Windows XP
Motorola Phone Tools Installation Guide Windows XP
Motorola Phone Tools 4.0 Windows XP
Motorola Phone Tools 4.5 Windows XP
MPT Windows XP
MPT 4.0 Windows XP
MPT 4.50 Widnows XP

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Verizon FiOS – Installed and Working, Kind of

Well today, I finally had my Verizon FiOS Television service installed. And it is now here late in the evening, working – for the most part. The only parts that are still not working, and I have to wait and talk to billing on Monday are the HDTV channels. Which, unfortunately are the channels that I care about most and were the main reason for the decision to switch to Verizon FiOS. I get the first 9 channels for HD Broadcast, but not the next 13 under HD National of 5 under HD Premium.

What an experience it was. For all the negative things that should be said about provisioning and the customer service department, the technicians that service that customers are first rate and deserve kudos. It was true with the initial Verizon FiOS Internet installation and this FiOS Television installation by Kelly was a good experience. He worked hard and long on the issues that were encountered, and even came back later in the evening to see if everything was fixed. He even had an HD cable to hook up my Vizio 42” LCD with. Definitely went the extra mile on the installation.

The initial installation went well and the cable levels came up pretty quickly. The main problem was that my Internet connection was still down from the night before and that is what the Motorola QIP6416-2 HD/DVRs require to get the guides working. Not to mentioned, I really wanted the Internet back on.

As hard as Kelly worked at solving the problems, it ended up that my previous evening suspicion was correct and provisioning really messed something up with my account. Basically something along the lines of my setup disappeared from my account the previous evening and was still missing. A lot of time was spent making calls back and forth to finally get it to come back on. However, once we got the “green” Internet light back on, meaning there was connectivity – things still did not work.

Not until around 8:00pm did the Internet connectivity and the guides for the Motorola 6416 HD/DVR receivers come up. And, the majority of the HD is still missing.

Overall, even as good as Kelly was this process has been negative for me and negative for my perception of Verizon.

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Motorola Phone Tools 4.5 – Vista 32-bit (x86) Installation for MPT

Having purchased Motorola Phone Tools (aka MPT) recently, today I went ahead and gave the installation a go ahead. I already installed the Motorola Phone Tools on Microsoft Windows Vista 64-bit (x64) and this time the installation was going to be for Microsoft Windows Vista 32-bit (x86). The main difference that I noticed between two installations that you are warned about the drivers in the 32-bit installation of Window Vista several more times than you are in the 64-bit version. In all, the installation was smooth and successful though!

If you’re interested, below is the how-to guide in order to install Motorola Phone Tools MPT Version 4.50 on your computer. If you do not have Motorola Phone Tools – you may be able to get it from a sponsor on this post.

Here is the step-by-step:
1.Start the installation and click on 'Next' to continue.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 1

2. Read the license agreement and click on 'I Agree.'
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 2

3. Choose complete installation, or custom if you want to specifiy a different installation directory.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 3

4. The Motorola Phone Tools prepares for the installation.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 4

5. The Motorola Phone Tools software and drivers install.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 5

6. You are prompted to confirm by Windows Vista Ultimate the installation of the drivers. Choose 'Install this driver software anyways', the specific drivers are not certified with Windows Vista, but they do work. This happens several times.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 6

7. Choose to Register Later or click on 'OK' to register now.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 7

8. A very specific warning to leave your V3 RAZR or other phone's data cable disconnected when you complete installation. After the initial connection setup, you will then connect the phone to the computer via the USB cable.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 8

9. Click on 'Finish' to complete the installation.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 9

This guide is compatible with the following phones: RAZR V3, RAZR V3i, RAZR V3c, A630, A830, A835, A840, A845, A860, A920, A1000, C305, C341c, C343, C343cr, C390, C698p, C975, C980, E310, E398, E550, E815, E815m, E816, E1000, E1070, M800, M900, ROKR E1, ROKR E2, E790, T720, T720c, T720i, T722, T722i, T725, T300p, T730c, T7, L6, L7, V8, PEBL, SLVR, U6, V6, C331, C332, C350, RAZR, V3, V3c, V3i, V3m, V180, V188, V360, A668, A780, E680, V220, V60, V60t, V60c, V60g, V60i, V60p, V60s, V60v, V60x, V65p, V66, V70, V80, V120, V120c, V120e, V120t, V120x, V260, V262, V265, V265m, V266, V276, V300, V300m, V325, V330, V330i, V400, V400p, V500, V501, V505, V510, V525, V525m, V535, V540, V545, V547, V550, V551, V551j, V551m, V555, V557, V557p, V560, V600, V600i, V600m, V620, V635, V635i, V710, V710m, V810, V872, V975, V980, V1050, MPX220, TIMEPORT, 270, 270c, 280, 280

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Verizon FiOS Installation – A Big Disaster, Mishandled by Verizon

It’s been a frustrating day, culminating a frustrating week in trying to switch from the Time Warner Cable service to the Verizon FiOS (Fiber Optic) Television service that I have been in the process of adding to my Internet service that I receive from Verizon currently. The summary, before reading the rest of the article and series of events is that I as of today – I still do not have Verizon FiOS TV service, my Internet service is out, and I would not recommend going with the Verizon FiOS service.

I had mentioned in a couple of articles earlier this week that I had contacted Verizon to confirm the Friday appointment at home. This is very important because one, I am leaving for a business trip to India next week and two – I needed to work from home while waiting, when I would prefer to go into the office. On both instances of my previous calls, Verizon confirmed my appointment. While they could not narrow down the timeframe from “all-day”, they were able to confirm it.

And, again on Friday morning I gave the Verizon FiOS customer service number a call to confirm the appointment. I was able to get connected faster than earlier in the week and was told that my appointment was still scheduled for some time during the day. However, the systems were down and they could not be more specific. So, I went on with my day as planned.

Around 2:00pm, I started to get nervous because I had not received the “pre-call” that Verizon requires before the technician shows up at your door – usually 30 minutes before arrival. It had not come on either phone number and I was nervous something was awry. I place another call to Verizon’s customer service department and connected with a gentleman out of the Everett, WA call center.

Very quickly, my concerns were confirmed. After asking what I perceived to be some strange questions, he asked me – Do you have television service? I responded no, I did not – but I was supposed to get it today. He mentioned then the system showed my order complete and asked if a Verizon technician came by today. I mentioned one had not, but I was expecting them at my house now. He put me on hold to give ordering, provisioning, and the local office a call.

After 5 minutes he gets back on the phone and says sorry but my order was lost and there is nothing that could be done today (still 3+ hours left in the day) and I would need to reschedule for next Wednesday and have someone at the house ALL DAY again. I told him my situation and that it was unacceptable and someone must come out today – after saying he was sorry, I asked to speak to a supervisor or manager.

After sitting on hold for 25 minutes (it was now closing in on 3:00), I was finally transferred to a supervisor. I spoke with the manager named Jason and he was both sympathetic to the situation and he said he would make a couple of calls and get back to me. I felt that while it was a long shot – there might be something that happened today.

Then 3:30pm came. Then 4:00pm came. Then 4:30pm came. Then 5:00pm came. Then 5:30pm came and still no call back from Verizon and I knew I had wasted my day at home. At this point, I am at the point where I am planning on cancelling my order and switching back to RoadRunner cable service because no company that treats customers this way deserves to be in business.

Finally, at 5:38pm a customer advocate called. She was very pleasant and asked if anyone had called me – I mentioned “no”, explained my frustration and the expectation that someone would be out today since I already had the basic FiOS service it would be a matter of minutes for my setup. She said she did not think that was possible but was working an escalation path to get a Verizon technician to my house in the morning. That was the only possible scenario in which I was willing to entertain still being a Verizon customer. She called me back in 20 minutes and confirmed that Saturday morning appointment. However, I was surprised that not even a basic offer of a free month’s worth of service was given for them wasting my time. Simply, an explanation of a “lost” order – hard to buy that in these days and times.

Everything seemed to be going ok until 6:30pm, and then my Verizon FiOS Internet service just dropped off the map. I figured it had to do with provisioning, and that because of the upcoming TV service something was going on.

I placed a call into technical support, supposedly a Dallas, Texas call center and it was an absolute waste of time. While the automated assistance (line and router test) could have been helpful, it was not my problem – however that was the one good piece of technology in the experience. Then it is on to the technical support representative. Turn your computer and your router off and on, please unplug your Verizon outside power and battery backup. Actually, pretty ridiculous given the fact that the connectivity had been rock solid with ZERO outages until this ordeal today.

Then becomes the fun part, sorry I cannot help you anymore because the systems here are down. You will have to wait for the technician to come on site tomorrow. So, I get to go through the evening without the basic Verizon FiOS Internet service I am paying for.

Too sum up this long story – I highly recommend against going with Verizon FiOS at this point in time due to their support and provisioning systems instability. In several instances this week, these systems either messed up my order or were unable to provide a basic level of customer service. If you value your time, give Verizon at least 6 months to a year to get their act together before considering the switch.

It’s amazing how a company that is this poor at serving their customers can even stay in business.

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Motorola Phone Tools 4.5 – Vista 64-bit (x64) Installation for MPT

Having purchased Motorola Phone Tools (aka MPT) last night, today I went ahead and gave the installation a go ahead. The first question I had is how would it and the drivers for my Motorola V3 RAZR (soon to be RAZR2) would behave in the 64-bit (x64) mode of Windows Vista Ultimate edition that I am running on my computer. In previous experiences with P2K Commander and Leader GL Flex Editor XP, the process was not so smooth.

While the initial CD insertion as well as the start of the installation went fine, I was most concerned about theinstallation of the drivers. I had previously installed the Motorola Driver Installer for 64-bit (x86) that I spoke of in this post and I was not sure if there would be any conflicts with those drivers or if it would simply not install properly. However, it went off like a charm – the installation completed properly with minimal intervention.

If you’re interested, below is the how-to guide in order to install Motorola Phone Tools MPT Version 4.50 on your computer. If you do not have Motorola Phone Tools – you may be able to get it from a sponsor on this post.

Here is the step-by-step:
1.Start the installation and click on 'Next' to continue.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 1

2. Read the license agreement and click on 'I Agree.'
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 2

3. Choose complete installation, or custom if you want to specifiy a different installation directory.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 3

4. The Motorola Phone Tools prepares for the installation.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 4

5. The Motorola Phone Tools software and drivers install.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 5

6. You are prompted to confirm by Windows Vista Ultimate the installation of the drivers. Choose 'Install this driver software anyways', the specific drivers are not certified with Windows Vista, but they do work.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 6

7. Choose to Register Later or click on 'OK' to register now.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 7

8. A very specific warning to leave your V3 RAZR or other phone's data cable disconnected when you complete installation. After the initial connection setup, you will then connect the phone to the computer via the USB cable.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 8

9. Click on 'Finish' to complete the installation.
Motorola Phone Tools version 4.5 MPT Installation Guide Picture 9

This guide is compatible with the following phones: RAZR V3, RAZR V3i, RAZR V3c, A630, A830, A835, A840, A845, A860, A920, A1000, C305, C341c, C343, C343cr, C390, C698p, C975, C980, E310, E398, E550, E815, E815m, E816, E1000, E1070, M800, M900, ROKR E1, ROKR E2, E790, T720, T720c, T720i, T722, T722i, T725, T300p, T730c, T7, L6, L7, V8, PEBL, SLVR, U6, V6, C331, C332, C350, RAZR, V3, V3c, V3i, V3m, V180, V188, V360, A668, A780, E680, V220, V60, V60t, V60c, V60g, V60i, V60p, V60s, V60v, V60x, V65p, V66, V70, V80, V120, V120c, V120e, V120t, V120x, V260, V262, V265, V265m, V266, V276, V300, V300m, V325, V330, V330i, V400, V400p, V500, V501, V505, V510, V525, V525m, V535, V540, V545, V547, V550, V551, V551j, V551m, V555, V557, V557p, V560, V600, V600i, V600m, V620, V635, V635i, V710, V710m, V810, V872, V975, V980, V1050, MPX220, TIMEPORT, 270, 270c, 280, 280

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