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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

iPod 20GB to 60GB Upgrade Guide - Step-by-Step

Recently, I have been further exceeding the 20GB storage limit on my 4th Generation iPod (Model A1099). Each time I purchase a new CD the problem gets worse as you might imagine -- each time I have to add new artists or albums to my exclude list which somewhat defeats that point. I was at the point where over 2GB of music was excluded from my iPod. Not to mention, that I cannot even use the photo capability on it!

Then two weeks ago, I decided to pursue an upgrade. After finally settling on a 60GB MK6006GAH Toshiba hard drive, I was well on my way. Well, on Friday I received the drive and today I finally had the chance to perform the upgrade.

Two thoughts on the upgrade - 1) It is so easy that you can do it in less than 10 minutes with the right tools, 2) It is wonderful to have 55GB+ available for music and photos! This article and guide will take you step-by-step through the tutorial to give you all the information you need to complete a successful hard drive upgrade or replacement in just 10 minutes. While this may not be the first tutorial on an Apple iPod hard drive upgrade, it may be the easiest to follow!

What do I need?
1. First off, you need a replacement drive for your Apple iPod 4th Generation 20GB drive. The original drive models are Toshiba hard drives the MK2004GAL and the MK2006GAL. If you want to upgrade to the 60GB hard drive capacity, then your are looking for the MK6006GAH model, available on eBay for approximately $90 with some warranty. The MK6006GAH is the ATA-50 pin model and is directly compatible with your Apple iPod 4th Generation, as all 4th Gen devices use the ATA-50 pin technology.
2. If you want to avoid scratching up your iPod's case, make sure you have a non-marring pry tool, similar to the one I mention in this article. Alternatively, you can use a small screwdriver if you can stand the nicks and scratches.
3. Your iPod's wall charger and cable. Once the device is reset, you will need it to get it back into working condition.
4. An exacto knife or sharp object to remove foam cushioning from your old hard drive.

Now that you are ready, here is the step-by-step tutorial. Was this guide helpful for you? If so, please let me know with a comment!

1. With your iPod facing up and towards you turn it so the right side is facing you. Slide your non-marring pry tool in between the plastic front of your iPod case and the back metal case. Once inserted as below, pull the bottom part of the case out and downward until the clips release. Moderate force was required with my iPod.
Pry Tool Insertion on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

2. Once the clips release the entire side of the iPod case is released.
Opened iPod case on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

3. Rotate the right side slowly and carefully to separate the back case of the iPod from the front. Do not pull apart as the lock and headphone connector from your iPod is still connected between the cases.
Rotate the case to expose the hard drive on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

4. On the bottom right of the iPod is the battery connector disconnect this before removing any of the electronics in order not to damage your iPod.
Disconnect battery from iPod on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

5. Now, separate the the ATA 50-pin hard drive connector from your iPod. You should be able to perform this with your fingers, but gently prying and wiggling until it releases. Do not apply too much force or you may bend the pins.
Separate ATA pin connector from iPod hard drive on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

6. Now remove the old 20GB drive from the iPod. The plastic bumpers around the drive release very easily. To remove the foam cushion material, use an exacto knife or similar tool to cut the foam from the drive where it is glued. Rather than gluing the foam cushioning to my new drive, it stuck pretty well by itself.
Replace the hard drive and transfer bumpers and foam cushion on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

7. Place the plastic bumpers on the new drive so they fit securely.
Secure the plastic bumpers around the hard drive on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

8. Reassemble your iPod by placing the new 60GB hard drive back into the case - foam side down, then attached the ata pin connector to the new drive, connect the battery supply back to the iPod, and finally snap the case back together.

9. Turn your 20GB upgraded to 60GB iPod on and connect it via USB to your computer with iTunes running. You receive the message that the iPod is in recovery mode and must be restored. Click 'Ok' to continue.
First connection to iTunes post upgrade on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

10. Go to the iPod screen on iTunes and click on the button for 'Restore' to start the restore of the iPod system software onto your new hard drive.
Restore iPod Update software from iTunes on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

11. You will be prompted to confirm that you want to restore the iPod with the message "Are you sure you want to restore the iPod 'iPod' to its fatory settings? All of your songs and other data will be erased." Click on 'Restore' to complete the restore.
Confirm restore on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

12. In my case, I had to update the software to iPod updater version 1.2.1 Click on 'Next' to continue.
New Apple Updater version 1.2.1 on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

13. Click on 'Agree' to accept the terms of the license. The restore will now take place on the iPod. iPod now needs to be connected to an AC Adapter to start up.
Accept the terms of the software license on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

14. Connect the iPod to the AC wall Adapter for start-up.
Plug in iPod to AC Adapter on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

15. iPod correctly starts up with factory default settings. I choose the English language for my iPod.
Select updated language on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

16. The iPod shows the available space in the >55GB range, showing the completion of the upgrade from 20GB to 60GB. Now connect your iPod back to your USB connection on your computer.
Hard drive has over 55GB of free space on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

17. The iPod now connects to iTunes and iTunes recognizes that the iPod now has a 60GB drive and begins to sync information.
iTunes connection complete on Apple iPod 20GB upgrade to 60GB hard drive

Congratulations, your iPod upgrade to 60GB from a 20GB 4th Generation iPod is complete. Enjoy all the new space!

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

RAZR V3 White - Fuzzy Screen Turns Off - On is Fixed! Guide on Fixing RAZR V3

I receive a good number of emails and questions in my email from those who visit my SomeLifeBlog site. A large portion of those are in regards to the Motorola V3 RAZR based on the number of posts I have about that device. It is important to me to solve as many of those problems for readers of this site. This particular posts answers on of those questions.

A question with frequency that I have received on the Motorola V3 RAZR is a complicated user issue where the owner of the RAZR V3 experiences either a white or fuzzy LCD display screen on their cellular phone. Aside from that problem with viewing any information, the majority of the other components seem to work fine. For example, the phone would still make and receive calls, play ringtones, and the camera would work. However, the LCD screen on the phone still was fuzzy or just a bright white color even when it turns off and on.

(On the same note, other symptoms from other users include just the white or fuzzy screen, flickering of the screen when turning on and off, possibly a completely black or dark screen where only the keypad lights turn on & off.)

In terms of this particular question, the person spent a good amount of time turning the phone off and on, removing the battery for a period of time to reset the Motorola RAZR V3. Finally, they even went as far as cleaning all of the contacts on the battery and connectors inside the Motorola RAZR V3. Still, the white fuzzy LCD screen on the RAZR was still there.

How do you fix this issue? In most cases, this issue is fixed by replacing the battery on the phone with a new battery. That was it, and in this case worked for this user. Their phone is now not only fully functional, but the screen is also working as it did before.

Why is that? In some cases after the battery has been charged and re-charged many times, it may lose some of its ability to hold the charge or provide enough current to the Motorola V3 RAZR phone. This was the case here and with a new battery with a factory conditioning, the Motorola V3 returned to normal operation.

While OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) batteries from Motorola may be expensive, a cost-effective alternative is to get a 3rd party battery that has the same rating, charge, and current as the original battery. These can be obtained from several battery stores or from eBay by searching for “Motorola RAZR battery”.

Did this fix work for you? Let me know with a comment below.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Vista: Setup DLNA Media Server for PS3 - Step-by-Step Guide

With Windows Media Player 11 which is included with Microsoft Windows Vista and available as an update or download for Windows XP has the ability to perform as a media server. Better news on that is that since Microsoft is a board member of the DLNA, the media server can function as a DLNA media server.

DLNA media servers can be connected to from a number of devices, most importantly to me right now of course is the ability for it to be connected to via the Sony Playstation 3. This guide will take you through the basic steps to setup your machine as Media Server using Microsoft Windows Media Player as the server.

Here is the step-by-step guide:
1. Open your Microsoft Media Player 11. Click on Library --> Media Sharing to configure your computer for DLNA media sharing.

2. A pop-up window appears for Media Sharing. Make sure the 'Share My Media' Checkbox is checked and click on 'OK' to continue.

3. For the Media Sharing setting for 'Share music, pictures, and video on your network', click on the 'Setting' option to configure the details about your DLNA Media Player 11 sharing.

4. For Media Share, now choose your default settings. In the 'Share Media as' textbox enter the name that you want your media server to appear as when they find it on the network. My choice was 'Vista'. Next, choose the media types your want to share, music, pictures, and/or video. Then any star or parental ratings that your want to prevcent. Lastly, to make the finding of my PS3 easiest for my computer I checked the checkbox 'Allow new devices and computers automatically (not recommended)'. Make sure you are on an internal network to protect your media. Click on the 'OK' button.

5. A pop up window appears for an 'Add Devices' dialog. 'If you continue, any media player that is detected on any network you use will be able to access your shared library while you are connected. Do you want to continue?' Click on 'Yes' to continue. The media player sharing is now setup.

6. The next step is to add media to your library so that it is available to the DLNA server. To do this, click on Library --> Add to Library to open the dialog. On the 'Add to Library' dialog, you can choose a quick setup of 'My personal folders' if you store you media in Windows default locations, or you can click on the 'Advanced Options' button to choose specific folders. After you have completed, click on 'OK' to continue.

7. In the 'Add to Library by Searching Computer' the Media Player 11 with DLNA server support will scan the specified directories in the previous step to add to the library. In the example below, recent pictures of the trip to Cancun were added to my media library. Once this completes, click on the 'Close' button to complete the setup of the DLNA media server.

Congratulations, you have successfully setup your Media Player 11 on Windows XP or Windows Vista for use with a DLNA server. Now you can connect to it from a number of devices including an XBOX 360 or Playstation 3!

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Finding a Non-Marring Pry Tool for iPod

When I made the decision to move forward with my 4th Generation iPod upgrade to a 60GB hard drive from the original 20GB hard drive there was one tool that I currently did not have that was needed. That tool, was a non-marring pry tool, which is useful for a host of projects, including disassembling iPods, and changing face plates on the RAZR, Blackberry, and other cellular devices. Thus far, I had gotten away without one on my little projects – for the iPod upgrade though, it was required.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time in a Fry’s Electronics knows they have just about every possible piece of electronic equipment and tools that one could desire. However, on my last trip to Fry’s in Woodland Hills California (where I bought my 500GB hard drive upgrade) I could not find a non-marring pry tool.

Not knowing where else I could go and find a pry tool from a brick and mortar shop, I turned to the Internet. Several places I visited the tools were in the $10-12 range, often times approaching $20 with shipping for a $.30 plastic pry tool. That’s when I found – both a reasonable price for the tool and shipping. The specific tool I purchased was their SKU TOOL-PRY and the damage was minor – only $4.95, plus California state sales tax of $.41 and free shipping (on all cellular accessories) for a grand total of $5.36. A great buy!

The non-marring pry tool arrived within a couple of days just as expected and is now ready for my pending 60GB hard drive upgrade on the iPod. If you need a pry tool, you may want to check them out.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Apple iPod 60GB MK6006GAH Drive Upgrade Purchase - 4th Generation

A couple of weeks ago, I began my search for a “cheap” hard drive upgrade for my 4th Generation Apple iPod which went out of warranty some time ago. In short, my findings were that if I wanted to increase the capacity to 60GB with the MK6006GAH hard drive that the cost was going to be around $90 for anything that had a warranty associated with it. The 40GB drive was not much better from a value perspective, with the MK4004GAH drives being in the $70 range with shipping.

There was the outside chance of getting something in the $20 range; however the majority of those items were either in ‘not tested’ or ‘unknown’ status. Given the value difference between a ‘tested’ and ‘untested’ hard drive; it is a safe assumption that the money would be wasted on a broken hard drive. Not worth the risk in my opinion.

So, the reality I was faced with if I really needed additional capacity on my Apple iPod was should I spend around $90 for a 60GB upgrade to my device or should I go after a 5th generation 80GB device for the $350 device. It ended up being a relatively easy decision – my 4th generation 20GB hard drive is in great condition and has had zero problems, so I elected to go for the 60GB hard drive upgrade with the purchase of a MK6006GAH 60GB hard drive.

The drive I purchased was in the $90 range with shipping and a 1-year warranty on the drive from eBay. The drive just arrived this week and I plan to initiate the upgrade in the coming days. Of course, I will cover that experience here in a future post so you can see how it went!

Plus, given the great working condition of my 20GB MK2004GAL hard drive – I figure I can recoup $30-$40 of the upgrade price!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

PS3: Connect to Vista as a Media Server

Now that it looks like I will be the Los Angeles area for a couple of weeks (about 10 days until I travel again), I decided to solve some "very important" problems that I was having with my home entertainment center. Namely, the fact that I have over 20GB of music sitting on my computer -- but no way to play it through my Sony ES receiver.

That's where the Playstation 3 (PS3) and it's ability to connect to Media Servers comes into play. Today while doing a little research, I discovered how to connect my PS3 to my home computer so that I could stream music wirelessly to my Playstation 3. Pretty cool!

It all starts apparently with Sony's firmware upgrade for the Playstation 3 (PS3) to version 1.8. Since I had not used my PS3 in a few weeks -- I just noticed the upgrade to version 1.9 of the firmware. However, upon completing the upgrade I noticed that their option to "Find Media Server" on the PS3 was under the music, photos, and videos section.

The functionality was support for DLNA (Digital Living Alliance Network), which in this case establishes the interoperability of Digital Media. While this was not necessarily supported in Windows XP, it is supported in Windows Vista as well as any computer with Microsoft's Media Player 11. Once you have that setup -- it is just a few minutes until you will be able to access all of your media on your PS3!

Once your search for Media servers, two things need to happen. The first is that your computer will need to recognize the PS3 an approved device. Once you have that setup and Media Player running, you can view pictures, stream videos and music directly to your PS3 and through your home theater. If you have the 60GB version of the Playstation 3, then you can do this all wirelessly as well!

Last note is that you can copy multiple files to your PS3 so that if you need to play them when your Windows Media Server is not available then you can store them on your PS3 hard drive.

See this article for a step-by-step guide on setting up a Windows Media Server that supports DLNA.

See this article for a step-by-step guide on getting your PS3 to recognize your Windows Media Server support DLNA

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Hurricane Dean Stirs Memories of Recent Cancun Visit

As the news of Hurricane Dean comes in today and the news that it is directing itself towards the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, memories of our recent trip to Cancun continue to fill my thoughts. And as of last night when it was thought to be aimed squarely at Cancun and now as it aims more towards the south of the Yucatan and Belize.

Our feelings our mixed of course – half feeling extremely fortunate that we were able to enjoy our time there just over two weeks, and half wondering how the peninsula will make out having just experienced the death and destruction of Hurricane Wilma less than two years ago. That storm caused $3B in damage and Wilma was still in forefront of the minds of many on our visit. In fact, I could not remember what the impact of Wilma was that I found and read this site where several folks posted memories.

The pictures on the news and airports showed the same airport terminals, restaurants, and hotels that we had seen. The only good news is that it looks like both Cancun and Cozumel will avoid the brunt of the storm as I write this. However, that could always be premature given that these hurricanes can change directions on a moments notice. Not to mention there is still sure to be some impact since the tropical storm affects areas 175 miles from the eye of Hurricane Dean.

But, to the south – things may be much worse. The concern there is two main areas just 70 miles south of the city of Cancun, Xel-Ha the natural water park and aquarium where we swam with the dolphins and the Tulum Mayan ruins. These locations promise to much closer to the eye of the hurricane and with storm surges expected to be in the 12-18ft range (from 11pm EDT National Hurricane Center), one can only hope for the best.

Only time will tell, especially with Hurricane Dean set to make landfall in the next 12 hours.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Using ROBOCOPY to Backup Files instead of XCOPY or COPY

With my new 500GB hard drive, I have the need to backup or synchronize the important files on my computer. The copy, is for the simple purpose if the primary drive on the operating system goes down. I have had this happen before and it is very painful to recover the data from it. (Post coming soon on this)

I am not a fan of the shadow copy or backup utility provided in Windows Vista as it keeps more of a history of changes on the file system then simply perserving the current content of a disk system. In the past I had used Secure Copy 3.X by ScriptLogic to accomplish this. That version however does not work on Windows Vista 64-bit (x64), neither does their latest version 4.X based on my installation test yesterday. Based on the trouble of locating a tool, I started thinking about the age-old XCOPY utility and accidently stumbled upon ROBOCOPY which is included by default in the Windows Vista Operating system as a utility.

Those of us familiar with the copy, cp, or xcopy commands were not so robust and often choken when you needed to copy hundreds or thousands of files. Not to mention all the switches you needed to learn to make sure you did not clobber, included directories and so forth. That's where ROBOCOPY comes in.

With most resource kits including Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows 2003, a new version or upgrade of XCOPY.EXE or the traditional COPY.EXE was made available in the resource kit called ROBOCOPY. (ROBOCOPY.EXE). ROBOCOPY is supposed to stand for Windows Robust File Copy and is available via the Windows Command Line via a couple of simple commands.

The best part? With a simple command and just a single switch, you can synchronize directories on your computer with little or no effort. What does the command look like? Here is an example:

ROBOCOPY "C:\My Music" "B:\Backup\My Music" /MIR

The MIR switch stands for "Mirror a complete directory tree. That means that it not only copies the new files but deletes any files that are no longer there to manage a synchronized backup of a directory. And it is fast. For instance for the system to read and detect the 4600+ music files on my machine and complete the synchronization (already completed before) was less than a second worth of time.

With just a few simple commands added to a .bat or Batch file that you can make inside of notepad and save as a .bat file, you can create a pretty effective backup job that will synchronize you files. In my case, I setup the batch job inside of the scheduled task manager to run each evening to keep everything backed up properly.

One thing to watch out for, if you are copied directories where files such as NTUSER.DAT or other files might be locked and are relatively unimportant, use the the /R:0 switch to set the access denied retires to zero. That will keep your job moving quickly!

Best of luck with creating a quick and easy backup job on your personal or professional computer!

Here is the list of commands when just typing in "ROBOCOPY" into the command line:
ROBOCOPY :: Robust File Copy for Windows


Started : Sun Aug 19 17:34:35 2007

Simple Usage :: ROBOCOPY source destination /MIR

source :: Source Directory (drive:\path or \\server\share\path).
destination :: Destination Dir (drive:\path or \\server\share\path).
/MIR :: Mirror a complete directory tree.

For more usage information run ROBOCOPY /?

**** /MIR can DELETE files as well as copy them !

Here is the full list of commands when using help:
C:\Users\Ken>robocopy /?

ROBOCOPY :: Robust File Copy for Windows


Started : Sun Aug 19 17:11:55 2007

Usage :: ROBOCOPY source destination [file [file]...] [options]

source :: Source Directory (drive:\path or \\server\share\path).
destination :: Destination Dir (drive:\path or \\server\share\path).
file :: File(s) to copy (names/wildcards: default is "*.*").

:: Copy options :
/S :: copy Subdirectories, but not empty ones.
/E :: copy subdirectories, including Empty ones.
/LEV:n :: only copy the top n LEVels of the source directory tree.

/Z :: copy files in restartable mode.
/B :: copy files in Backup mode.
/ZB :: use restartable mode; if access denied use Backup mode.
/EFSRAW :: copy all encrypted files in EFS RAW mode.

/COPY:copyflag[s] :: what to COPY for files (default is /COPY:DAT).
(copyflags : D=Data, A=Attributes, T=Timestamps).
(S=Security=NTFS ACLs, O=Owner info, U=aUditing info).

/DCOPY:T :: COPY Directory Timestamps.

/SEC :: copy files with SECurity (equivalent to /COPY:DATS).
/COPYALL :: COPY ALL file info (equivalent to /COPY:DATSOU).
/NOCOPY :: COPY NO file info (useful with /PURGE).

/SECFIX :: FIX file SECurity on all files, even skipped files.
/TIMFIX :: FIX file TIMes on all files, even skipped files.

/PURGE :: delete dest files/dirs that no longer exist in source.
/MIR :: MIRror a directory tree (equivalent to /E plus /PURGE).

/MOV :: MOVe files (delete from source after copying).
/MOVE :: MOVE files AND dirs (delete from source after copying).

/A+:[RASHCNET] :: add the given Attributes to copied files.
/A-:[RASHCNET] :: remove the given Attributes from copied files.

/CREATE :: CREATE directory tree and zero-length files only.
/FAT :: create destination files using 8.3 FAT file names only.
/256 :: turn off very long path (> 256 characters) support.

/MON:n :: MONitor source; run again when more than n changes seen.
/MOT:m :: MOnitor source; run again in m minutes Time, if changed.

/RH:hhmm-hhmm :: Run Hours - times when new copies may be started.
/PF :: check run hours on a Per File (not per pass) basis.

/IPG:n :: Inter-Packet Gap (ms), to free bandwidth on slow lines.

:: File Selection Options :
/A :: copy only files with the Archive attribute set.
/M :: copy only files with the Archive attribute and reset it.
/IA:[RASHCNETO] :: Include only files with any of the given Attributes set.
/XA:[RASHCNETO] :: eXclude files with any of the given Attributes set.

/XF file [file]... :: eXclude Files matching given names/paths/wildcards.
/XD dirs [dirs]... :: eXclude Directories matching given names/paths.

/XC :: eXclude Changed files.
/XN :: eXclude Newer files.
/XO :: eXclude Older files.
/XX :: eXclude eXtra files and directories.
/XL :: eXclude Lonely files and directories.
/IS :: Include Same files.
/IT :: Include Tweaked files.

/MAX:n :: MAXimum file size - exclude files bigger than n bytes.
/MIN:n :: MINimum file size - exclude files smaller than n bytes.

/MAXAGE:n :: MAXimum file AGE - exclude files older than n days/date.
/MINAGE:n :: MINimum file AGE - exclude files newer than n days/date.
/MAXLAD:n :: MAXimum Last Access Date - exclude files unused since n.
/MINLAD:n :: MINimum Last Access Date - exclude files used since n.
(If n < 1900 then n = n days, else n = YYYYMMDD date).

/XJ :: eXclude Junction points. (normally included by default).

/FFT :: assume FAT File Times (2-second granularity).
/DST :: compensate for one-hour DST time differences.

/XJD :: eXclude Junction points for Directories.
/XJF :: eXclude Junction points for Files.

:: Retry Options :
/R:n :: number of Retries on failed copies: default 1 million.
/W:n :: Wait time between retries: default is 30 seconds.

/REG :: Save /R:n and /W:n in the Registry as default settings.

/TBD :: wait for sharenames To Be Defined (retry error 67).

:: Logging Options :
/L :: List only - don't copy, timestamp or delete any files.
/X :: report all eXtra files, not just those selected.
/V :: produce Verbose output, showing skipped files.
/TS :: include source file Time Stamps in the output.
/FP :: include Full Pathname of files in the output.
/BYTES :: Print sizes as bytes.

/NS :: No Size - don't log file sizes.
/NC :: No Class - don't log file classes.
/NFL :: No File List - don't log file names.
/NDL :: No Directory List - don't log directory names.

/NP :: No Progress - don't display % copied.
/ETA :: show Estimated Time of Arrival of copied files.

/LOG:file :: output status to LOG file (overwrite existing log).
/LOG+:file :: output status to LOG file (append to existing log).

/UNILOG:file :: output status to LOG file as UNICODE (overwrite existing
/UNILOG+:file :: output status to LOG file as UNICODE (append to existing

/TEE :: output to console window, as well as the log file.

/NJH :: No Job Header.
/NJS :: No Job Summary.

/UNICODE :: output status as UNICODE.

:: Job Options :
/JOB:jobname :: take parameters from the named JOB file.
/SAVE:jobname :: SAVE parameters to the named job file
/QUIT :: QUIT after processing command line (to view parameters).

/NOSD :: NO Source Directory is specified.
/NODD :: NO Destination Directory is specified.
/IF :: Include the following Files.


ROBOCOPY :: Robust File Copy for Windows


Started : Sun Aug 19 17:12:02 2007

Simple Usage :: ROBOCOPY source destination /MIR

source :: Source Directory (drive:\path or \\server\share\path).
destination :: Destination Dir (drive:\path or \\server\share\path).
/MIR :: Mirror a complete directory tree.

For more usage information run ROBOCOPY /?

**** /MIR can DELETE files as well as copy them !

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

5-Minute 500GB Hard Drive Upgrade for my Dell Dimension E520

Since I had upgraded to my Dell Dimension E520 a few months ago, I had been living in the world with a single hard 300GB SATA hard drive. This always concerns me given the number of hard drives I have had go bad on me in the past causing lost data. Usually what I prefer is a second, larger hard drive in my machine that can be used as a primary backup drive for both of our computers.

In Friday's ad for Fry's electronics, they had a $40 price break on a new Seagate SATA/300 500GB hard drive for $109. I have had really good luck with Seagate drives in the past (fingers) crossed and the majority of the losses were from either Western Digital or Maxtor driver. With that, I dropped by Fry's while out on errands and saved a few bucks on shipping.

I have replaced or installed at least 50 hard drives in my time ranging from some old 20MB ones to the current generation of 500GB drives. The process specifically with Dell in the past had somewhat painful, often needing to grab a mounting bracket or some other piece of hardware from someone on eBay. With this Dell Dimension E520, the upgrade takes 5 minutes from the time your machine is shut down until you have it turned back on and seeing the new drive. No joke!

All you need to do the installation is your bare hard drive and a SATA interface cable. No screwdriver, no additional power cord, or any other sort of mounting hardware! Dell's chassis design makes this almost as easy and quick as a hot-swappable SCSI or Fibre-Channel device!

Here is how the process went for me:

1. Unbox you new Seagate 500GB hard drive. The retail kit does come with a SATA interface cable, so you can use that without purchasing a new one.

2. Unplug your computer after it is safely shut down. Remove the cover from your Dell Dimension E520 (or similar). You can do this by sliding the black lever on the top of the computer back, releaseing the right side panel which the top will rotate down so you can lift it off.

3. Place your computer on its side and locate the drive carriers and installation bay in the lower left hand corner. On the bottom drive (empty bay) push the two side tabs in to release the drive carrier and remove from the computer.

4. Unwrap your hard drive from the anti-static bag and insert into the plastic carrier by carefully bending the carrier. The large blue plastic tab should be on the electronics side of the drive next to the SATA interface and power controller. The pins will insert themselves into the drive screw holes.

5. Snap the hard drive carrier back into the computer chassis and connect both the power cable (already there) and the new SATA interface cable to the hard drive. In my case, the included SATA interface cable was not as long as the other cables in my computer so I had to route it over the CPU fan cover into the clips there and then down onto the motherboard.

6. Insert the other end of the SATA interface cable into the open slot on the motherboard. Since I have a hard drive, DVD burner, and CD-ROM burner on my machine, there was just one SATA interface cable slot open in the main section of the board.

7. Place the cover back on the computer, plug it in, and power it up.

8. When the machine "posts" or shows the "Dell" logo, hit the F2 key to enter the BIOS setup to configure that SATA channel to the "On" position. In my case, the new drive was located on channel 5, where channels 3 & 4 were unavailable on this chassis. Save the configuration and exit.

9. The computer now recognizes the hard drive on boot, and you can either go to your computer management or disk management in Windows (Windows Vista in my case) or you can use the included Seagate Disk Utility software to setup the drive on the Operating System.

Congratulations, you are now done with the upgrade -- all in about 5 minutes of effort!

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Cheap Hard Drive for iPod Replacement? 40GB? 60GB?

I have finally ran out of significant space on my 4th generation (4th gen) Apple iPod and decided I need a little more capacity than my 20GB iPod currently has. So, being the thrifty person I am -- I started looking into how I might upgrade my current iPod rather than spending the $350 on a new 5th generation Apple iPod 80GB. The question I have, does anyone know where you can get a 40GB or 60GB hard drive for the iPod for a decent price?

The reason I ask is that I did some searching, including eBay and did not turn up too much. It seems that for a new 40GB (MK4004GAH) or 60GB (MK6006GAH) hard drive that you need to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $100, or even as high as $185 for a new drive on some sites.

That includes a recent search of eBay. While some closed in the $20-30 range, the majority of those were in "as-is" condition which means they are virtually guaranteed to be DOA. Anything that was significantly tested was over $50 with shipping included. I was under the impression that these drives were commodity products and you can get them new for well under $100. I guess I was wrong!

So, if anyone knows where you can get of good deal on a 40GB (MK4004GAH) or 60GB (MK6006GAH) replacement hard drive for a 4th Generation iPod let me know. I am looking!

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Technically, A Good Weekend

This has been a pretty good, yet long weekend. The majority of time was spent helping out a few IT projects. Some long hours and a lot of fun made for both for successful deployments and good memories. The projects this weekend included a data center move and the implementation of a Windows 2003 Active Directory & Microsoft Exchange 2003 environment for a small office.

The projects started off on Friday night with the deployment of Microsoft’s Active Directory to a small business with approximately 100 desktops. The good news is that this was a controlled rollout, so we started out with just 12 machines. In fact, the preparations had been happening for a couple of weeks and the deployment went smoothly as it could have. All the planned machines were migrated to the domain, Exchange was enabled and email was flowing in just a couple of hours.

Then on Saturday, a data center migration took up the entire day in moving a number of servers from on collocation provider to another. The equipment started out in the Savvis (old Exodus) data center on Nash in El Segundo and made the trip about a half mile away to the 365 Main collocation center. Fortunately, this move went smooth as well. A couple of normal type of issues, but in the end only a relatively small amount of time was spent troubleshooting the installation and connectivity post move.

As you can see, although tiring it was a very technically based weekend. I will have to make sure to have more fun next weekend!

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Sony TV LED & Blinking Codes - What Does It Mean When Standby/Timer Light Flashes

This post is directed towards helping folks with the diagnosis of problems with their Sony Television set. The genesis of this post is based questions I have received from my post on fixing the retrace lines on you Sony HDTV Projection and some additional help from a Sony TV Repair & Service Manual for my KP-51HW40 Projection HD Television set.

If you are having some problems with your Sony Television, then this post is for you. Generally speaking, when there is trouble with your Sony Television set -- it indicates the issue in either the diagnostic mode, or even more commonly by flashing a series of LED blinks or flashes on the front of your television. Each set or frequency of the blinks indicates a very specific problem with the television itself. In some cases, you may be able to repair the television set yourself -- or in the worst case you may need to order parts, call a local repair shop to the have a repairman sent out, or even purchase a new television set.

First off, here are the list of codes and what they generally mean on my set (which applies to many recent model Sony Television sets. Sony has provided a "self-diagnosis function" with your TV, that in the case of abnormalities or problems the LED or red blinking light on the Timer/Standby indicator flashes a number of times to indicate the issue. Here are the values of the various blinks.

  • 0 times, Diagnosis: Power does not turn on. Possible causes include: Power cord is not plugged in, Fuse is burned out (F6001) (G board). Symptoms of the problem: Power does not come on, No power is supplied to the unit, AC power supply is faulty.
  • 2 times, Diagnosis: B overcurrent (OCP). Possible causes: H. OUT (Q8024) is shorted. (D board), +B PWM (Q8035, 8038) is shorted. (D board) Symptoms of the problem: Power does not come on, Load on power line is shorted.
  • 3 times, Diagnosis: +B overvoltage (OVP). Possible causes: IC501 is faulty (G board), IC5002 is faulty (G board). Symptoms of the problem: TV has entered standby mode.
  • 4 times, Diagnosis: Vertical deflection stopped. Possible causes: +- 15V is not supplied. (D board), IC8003 is faulty. (A board) Symptoms of the problem: TV has entered standby state after horizontal raster, Vertical deflection pulse is stopped, Power line is shorted or power supply is stopped.
  • 5 times, Diagnosis: White balance failure (Not balanced) Possible causes: Video out (IC7101, 7201, 7301) is faulty (CR, CG, CB board), CRT drive (IC309) is faulty (A board), G2 is improperly adjusted. Symptoms of the problem: No raster is generated, CRT cathode current detection reference pulse output is small.
  • 6 times, Diagnosis: LOW B OCP/OVP (Overcurrent/over voltage). Possible causes: +5 line is overloaded. (A, B boards), +5 line is shorted. (A, B boards). Symptoms of the problem: No picture.
  • 7 times, Diagnosis: Horizontal deflection stopped. Possible cause: Q8035, 8038 is shorted. (D board)
  • 8 times, Diagnosis: High voltage error. Possible cause: T8005 is faulty. (D board)
  • 9 times, Diagnosis: Audio error. Possible causes: +- 19V line is shorted. (A, B boards), IC708 is faulty. (A board), PS701 or PS702 is opened. (A board). Symptoms of the problem: No sound

Hopefully, the descriptions of the blinking lights and the symptoms and problems will point you in the right direction to tell the problem with you Sony Projection Screen Television. If it is not enough, do not worry -- in the coming few posts I will talk about entering the Diagnosis and Service modes for your television set!

This guide may be compatible with the following televisions:

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Blackberry 8800 – GPS Works in Mexico. Kind Of.

I made two recent postings regarding some of the problems I had experienced with getting the Blackberry 8800’s GPS to work internationally. First it was India, where I could not get a signal for the life of me. Then in Frankfurt, Germany – it was the exact same problem, signal too weak for to pinpoint my location.

Based on some of the comments from the posts, others were having more success with their attempts to use the GPS functionality in their Blackberry 8800. Reports from several countries across Europe included successful connections and uses with their GPS. So, with that in mind – I was determined to give it another try on my visit to Cancun, Mexico last week.

First the good news, I was able to get a signal on a couple of occasions along the Yucatan peninsula. While taking a little bit longer than it does here, I was able to get a signal from the GPS satellites and call it my location within 4 meters on Google Maps. The only problem that even in a high-tourist area like Cancun, Mexico – Google Mobile Maps only supports satellite imagery, no maps or mapping options are available. A little frustrating to say the least.

And in terms of the performance of the GPS on the Blackberry 8800, it continues to perform rather poorly for me. In between uses, if I use any other applications – I have to use the ALT+CAP+DEL tool to reset the Blackberry in order to get the GPS to pick up.

Anyone else have similar problems?

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Trip Report – Cancun, Mexico Vacation

I am sitting here on our United Airline Ted flight about halfway back to Los Angeles from our 8-day, 7-night vacation to Cancun, Mexico where we stayed in the Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort. It is a great time to reflect back on the trip before we both jump back into our work world tomorrow morning.

A quick reflection is that even though it was both the slow and hottest season in Cancun, we had an excellent time. There are several reason for this, including the hotel and poolside being less crowded than they might be, a number of “programs” or tours, and the weather of course cooperated for us.

Would we come back again?

I think that is a very good question. While for folks on the East Coast, this is a pretty close and somewhat Americanized location – in a lot of ways Cancun reminds us of Hawaii – especially Waikiki. It is not any cheaper, and it takes about the same amount of flight time to get here as it does Hawaii. The main advantage that it has in my opinion would be the scuba diving and snorkeling access & availability – it may also be the one thing that is less expensive than Hawaii.

Which brings me to my only regret on this trip. If I had to do it over again, I would have taken the 3-days and become open-water certified using up a couple of the days we spent poolside relaxing. I thought about it earlier in the week, but lost sight of it until Thursday. Once we checked out the availability and pricing, it was extremely reasonable from one of the main scuba diving companies – Aqua World. Aqua World charges around $400 for a 3-day course that include course materials, books, training, and 5-6 dives for your open water certification.

So, to answer the question – I believe we would come back to Cancun with a couple of minor modifications. The first would be to come during a different time of the year, when perhaps it was a little bit cooler. The second would be to do a trip that is a little shorter, although it makes it tough coming from West Coast where you lose a day traveling here. Then finally, I would make sure to dedicate the time to get open-water scuba diving certified. Maybe we’ll be back sooner than I think…..

Here was our itinerary for the week:
Day 1: Getting there
Day 2: Tulum & Xel-Ha
Day 3: Relax at the Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort
Day 4: Visit the Ancient Mayan City of Chichen Itza
Day 5: Relaxing & Shopping in Cancun
Day 6: Jungle Tour & Snorkeling
Day 7: More relaxing & Pat O'Briens
Day 8: Senor Frogs & heading home

A few random commentaries:
Inclusive Resorts: These appear to be the rage in the Cancun area right now. Just as they are in other areas of the Caribbean, such as Jamaica. If you have kids and you want to have a predictable, set budget for the week then these may be for you. However, if you like to do any exploring and sampling of the local eateries and experiences, you may want to re-think that as you probably will not get the benefit you are looking for.
Real Estate: And I thought prices in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara were out of control. The prices for land and condos here is high – I wonder if it poised for a fall like is happening stateside right now. For the price of some of these places, you could get a nice ocean condominium or house in Orange County or perhaps even Malibu. Hmm, where would I rather live or vacation?
Prices: Expect to pay at least the same or many times more for everything than you do in the United States. Yes, even for beer. Cancun is just like any other resort town in the Hotel zone and at most tourist areas. There are not a lot of deals to be found.
Buses: The bus systems, once you learn how to use them are great and easy. While we burned through some pesos on taxi rides the first couple of evenings, once we started using the buses we realized that in some ways they were easier and definitely cheaper, $2.20 round trip rather than $20.
Shopping: Realize that any Mexican souvenirs that you buy such as blankets, tequila, and most crafts are not from the Yucatan peninsula. That means yes, you will pay more.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Senor Frogs in Cancun, Worth the Wait

Today is our last day in Cancun, with our flight leaving for Los Angeles out at around 6:00pm in the evening. We planned to spend the day relaxing, packing, and finally heading down to Senor Frogs for lunch. Luckily, while the Hilton Cancun does not have hospitality rooms, they were very generous in giving us a late checkout time of 2:30pm, the time we needed to head to the airport.

So, around 11:00am we caught a bus down to Senor Frogs. Once arriving, we noted that Senor Frogs did not open until noon which left us in a little bit of a predicament. Should we wait the 45 minutes to visit Senor Frogs or should we find another place to eat?

Eating at Senior Frogs on the Lagoon in Cancun, Mexico

Given the popularity and visibility to Senor Frogs in Cancun, we decided to wait it out. After killing some more time at the Plaza de Fiesta Mexican outlet – and consequently buying a few more things – we headed back to Senor Frogs.

Just opening, we headed in and grabbed a seat. We ended up with a nice corner table on the lagoon, but my back was to the main part of Senor Frogs. Although I knew that they would attempt to surprise and scare you, I was caught off-guard when our waiter grabbed me from behind and blew his whistle. I just about jumped out of my seat. Just part of the fun at Senor Frogs. As somewhat of a comedy, both of the cokes we ordered were served in the Dos Equis Yard glasses used for beer – a nice touch.

In terms of the meal, it was much better than I might have expected. We ordered some guacamole to start with and they did not skimp. A traditional mortar bowl used for grinding corn meal was completely filled with a generous amount guacamole. Way more than could fit on the chips, so they kept them coming. (On a side note, Senor Frogs had the best chips we ate all week. Not sure if it was the time of day and they were just freshly made, but several other places did not have the same quality we are used to back in Southern California.)

For our meal, we both ordered a Beef Taco Salad which was impressive and tasty. With an oversized flour shell in the shape of a taco, it was filled with lettuce, steak, cheese, cucumbers, tomato, carrots, and a nice spicy ranch dressing. The meal was very tasty and highly recommended.

While Senor Frogs is generally known to be a party place where “Anything Can Happen”, it is great to know they have great food as well. There is also one opening soon (2 months) in Honolulu, Hawaii. We will make sure to visit it on our next visit there, which seems to be annually these days.

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Storming Weather in Cancun, Mexico

Ok, not really. But for us Southern Californians it kind of was. I mentioned in some previous posts that the weather we had this week in Cancun, Mexico was amazing. And it was. We anticipated having rain and showers every day based on what told us, but we encountered very little.

Waterspout off the coast of Cancun, Mexico

In fact, the majority of the weather that we saw spanned the last couple of days. Last night, we were caught in a downpour on our way to Pat O’Briens. Then, when we came back from the night out, there was a great lighting storm happening just off the shore from our hotel combined with some good rain. Very fun to watch, especially if you are a Californian and not used to this sort of thing.

Then this morning, the storming continued. Not a ton of rain, but we caught several waterspouts off the coast, something that I had had never seen in person. It was a little unreal to watch them come down out of the clouds and form a mini-funnel cloud like a tornado on the water. Then, just as quickly as they formed, they disappeared.

Waterspout number 2 off the coast of Cancun, Mexico

The other news is that there are actually waves that can be surfed here. All week long, the breakers just pounded out on the beach. Today for the first time, you can see that the break offshore and there are some surfers in the water. Good news there.

Luckily, I grabbed a couple on quick snapshots. The good news is that I inadvertently found a whole bunch of new settings on my Canon PowerShot G7. I had previously complained about some of the night photos it took. What I somehow missed (and feel like a moron) was the ability to choose from about 30 different shooting modes including action, 3 nighttime modes, cloudy, sunny, etc.

Looks like I will have some setting to try out on future shots and hopefully further improve. I could have used this information back in June when we took photos on a sunny beach up in Pismo Beach, California.

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Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort – Our Opinion

We really enjoyed this week’s stay at the Hilton resort here in Cancun, Mexico. As with any resort hotel stay, there are both good and bad things to say about them. In addition, among the other Hilton properties that we have stayed at – we most closely associate this with the Hilton Hawaiian Village from a comparison perspective.

Not a bad view from our Hotel Room in the Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort

Overall, this is a very good resort and is worth considering for any vacation. Especially if you want to stay close to the beach, pool, or do a lot of activities outside the Center of Cancun.

The concierge staff here makes that stay at the Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort that much better. At every opportunity, including before one even arrives – they take very good care of you. We were able to have questions answered, opinions provided on tour options, and reservations made in very quick order. This staff is definitely a huge plus for this hotel.

The beach and pools are perhaps the best part about the resort. They are huge, spacious, and there is plenty of available space poolside in and out of the sun. Shaded cabanas both by the pool and by the beach are free without any charges in a first-come-first-serve manner. This is a big advantage that this property has over the Hilton Hawaiian Village where space, including shade is tough to come by even during the slow season. And if in Hawaii you want to spend the day on the beach, expect to shell out $50 for a couple of chairs and an umbrella. The poolside service staff and bar are relatively timely and friendly which is not always the case at resorts. And, there are a bunch of activities all poolside during the day for kids and adults alike including water aerobics, water volleyball, and ping-pong.

In terms of the property, restaurants, and rooms – they are all relatively expansive and impressive – as the hotel is somewhat of a sprawling mega-resort. The rooms themselves are fairly typical Hilton rooms with all the standard amenities, standard United States plugs, and generally over-sized balconies. The restaurants serve a variety of inter-continental foods including Sushi, Italian, Mexican, and American flavors.

If you want to take a little time to look at the negatives of the resort, here they are:

1. Distance from Cancun Central forces a bus ride ($1.30 for two each way) or a cab ride ($10 each way) to get anywhere without walking approximately 4-5 km (2-3 miles). It can be somewhat inconvenient.
2. Rooms and hallways can be very loud, especially in the upgrade wing. Because of the Mexican themes with the use of all tile and marble flooring in rooms and hallways you hear everything that goes on in the hallway as well as potentially everything above you such as chair moving. That means if someone comes in loudly and shuts their door at 2:00am, you are likely to hear it. The best way we found to mitigate this was by making sure the fan in our room was running on high anytime we are in there. The only way to fix this would to be change the setup of the rooms and hallways with materials that better absorb sound.
3. The free breakfast that HHonors Gold or Diamond members receive is only the continental buffet. This is the way that Hilton Hawaiian Village used to be and after a lot of complaints did away with this as well as the tip not being included. Having to upgrade for “meat” or other items seems a lot like hitting people up for nickels and dimes. It should just be a free breakfast.
4. Linens are clean, but not always “clean”. What we mean by this is that mainly the towels will have some stains on them. They are definitely clean, but do not appear to be as “new” because of some stains from water, rust or what have you. Normally you would expect these to be re-bleached or thrown out.

Other than those, the Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort is an excellent place to spend your vacation – on par with a resort like the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Hawaii. In some areas it is better and other areas it is not. However, definitely an enjoyable place to spend the week – even better if it is free with HHonors points!

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Checking Out Pat O'Briens in Cancun

After we finished our purchases, we headed to Pat O’Briens via a nice stroll of about a mile down roadside. Once we got there, we were very happy in our choice for the evening. While it was not very crowded, we still had a great time – and it started to really pick up towards the end of our evening.

Pat O'Briens in Cancun, Mexico

When at Pat O’Briens, you must have a Hurricane drink that they are famous for. So, I had mine and we ordered a little baby one for Ashley, just so she could try it out. For an appetizer we ordered the Caprese salad with Andouille Sausage. While we generally love the tomato, basil, and mozzarella salads – the added twist of the sausage was a nice addition.

Then for dinner, I ordered the Chicken Cordon Bleu which may have been one of the better meals I have had. I really like Chicken Cordon Bleu to start with and Pat O’Briens had a great twist on it. The main twist was the it was fried and included a marinara and an alfredo/mozzarella sauce to top it all off. Basically, it combined two of my favorite dishes, the Chicken Cordon Bleu and the Chicken Parmigianna – very highly recommended. Ashley had the Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad and it was just what she was looking for as well.

Ashley and her baby hurricane at Pat O'Briens in Cancun, Mexico

As we were finishing up our desert or Apple Tartan, the real fun began. Throughout the night, the theme at the Pat O’Briens is for the waiters to bring the drinks that are ordered out to you on top of their heads. We even saw a couple of double-deckers. That is when it got a little crazy.

The bartender Fernando did a great triple-decker delivery within the bar that was impressive in itself. Then, however a real show started. Throughout the night, there was a video playing on one of the many screens that was the “World Bartending Championships”. We were not paying much attention to it, but once things were starting up we noticed the person performing on the screen was the same bartender from the video.

Fernando juggling fire at Pat O'Briens in Cancun, Mexico

As you might imagine, we spent the next 20 minutes mesmerized by all of the juggling, drink making, and tricks that Fernando was performing. If those were not enough, at one point several bottles of liquor were lit as wicks and then juggled as well. All of it was topped off with a finale of Fernando making and pouring six drinks simultaneously. It was a great way to end the evening.

If you’re in Cancun, check out Pat O’Briens. Have you been there before?

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Relaxing & Shopping in Cancun, Mexico - Revisited

As we wind down the trip in the last two days for our Cancun vacation, we are spending the majority of today pool and ocean side here at the Hilton Cancun. Nothing overly fabulous or of note really happened. But, at least our shaded spot for the day provided a good view of the ocean, the activities including the ping-pong tournament among other things.

Poolside at Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort

We had initially planned to have poolside tacos although that idea did not work out for us. Apparently the policy at the Hilton is that there are only tacos available if the hotel is at full occupancy, which apparently it was not. So, instead we settled for the Kiosko Nachos which have become our favorite lunch meal to share this week from the poolside Kiosko Grill. These nachos are very tasty and highly recommended with or without the jalapeños.

Tonight, we planned on heading down to Pat O’Briens Irish pub and New Orleans fair food. Although it is not very “Mexican” we do not have one in the Los Angeles area that we are aware of and I have not been to one since I was at the original one off of Bourbon Street in New Orleans about 8 years ago.

As we started to head out to do some shopping and eat, there was a note about a soccer game being played at the soccer field located at the Hilton. There were several teams there from the United States for what I guess to be a tournament. We planned to catch 15-20 minutes of the game (we saw one earlier in the week where the Mexican team dominated). As we went by, the game was no where near starting and it looked like it was going to rain. We thought it would be wiser for us to get on the bus before we got caught in the middle of the downpour.

Once we got down to Cancun Centro to do the shopping, a heavy downpour started. Luckily we were next to the same “mall” where Rainforest Café, Coco Bongo, Carlos ‘n Charlies, and the Hard Rock Café Cancun are located. This was the first real downpour we had seen having the great fortunes of weather during this season. It lasted about 20 minutes and then we made a run for it.

Given the variety of things we were looking to buy, we decided it best for us to check out the other Plaza de Fiesta on the other side of this mall. It was apparently 2-3 times the size of the one in the mall – and given the number of vendors we would have to negotiate with to get a “bargain” we headed over there and made our purchase. Of course, there is also that 10% coupon from the bus ride ticket which we made use of.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville in Cancun, Mexico

There are of course, several of these establishments in the United States, including the Las Vegas one where I attended a company event a few months ago. Regardless of that, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville is where we ended up eating dinner this evening. Not necessarily because of any strong desire to spend the evening there, rather because it was the only establishment this evening that had any activity at it.

After taking the R-1 bus down to the Cancun Central area around 8pm tonight, everywhere was pretty much still dead – say maybe a few folks at either Outback Steakhouse or TGI Friday’s restaurant down here. Both a combination of a relatively early hour and the slow season left many a restaurant dead and empty. Senior Frogs, Bubba Gump’s Shrimp, Pat O’Brien’s, and a few others we went by had very few people in them and thus less excitement.

Next to Pat O’Brien’s of course is Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. And while they still had their upper floor closed, the lower floor was full of activity and people. So, after a little contemplation – we ate there. It was a pretty good time at Jimmy Buffet’s. Our food which included some hot wings, a cheeseburger in paradise (but not Cheeseburgers in Paradise), and fajitas made for a good meal plus our waiter was a stand-up guy providing a lot of fun, jokes, and interaction.

Then there is the whole frequent show and performances from the Tiki Performers to a Mexican singer covering Jimmy Buffet songs. It’s fun, loud, and when the rest of Cancun appears to be empty or sleeping – Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville still has a lot of activity going on.

Have you been to Jimmy Buffet’s in Cancun, did you have the same good experience?

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Fixed! TSC.EXE CPU, Hard Drive, and Hibernate Issues

I have been frustrated by the process "TSC.EXE" on my laptop and the way it has been both spiking my CPU at 90-99% as well as hammering my disk drive. The behavior I saw was mainly during an intial logon to my Windows XP Professional laptop, and especially apparent after waking my computer up from sleeping or the hibernate mode when you close your laptop.

I finally got sick of always having to go to the Windows XP Task Manager and then right clicking on the TSC.EXE to end the process and kill it. It was often taking anywhere between 15-20 minutes of constant hard drive activity, drastically slowing down the machine and spiking the CPU processor on my machine. However, I have fixed it good for now.

What is TSC.exe? Well, it is part of the Trend Micro Damage Cleanup Engine which is primarily used AFTER a virus has gotten into the wild and the current patterns of the anti-virus are not effective. The Trend Micro Damage Cleanup Engine and the TSC.EXE process will then scan your machine to clean-up any damage that may have already been done. The TSC.EXE process if part of both the OfficeScan and PC-cillin lines of products. There is absolutely no reason why it should behave this way, especially after a wake-up from sleep mode on your computer.

How did I fix it? It's pretty straight forward. Here is what I did:

1. I browsed to C:\Program Files\Trend Micro\OfficeScan Client (default) or the customer installation folder for Trend Micro.

2. I right clicked on TSC.EXE and selected Properties.

3. I selected the "Security" tab on the properties screen.

4. Rather than "everyone" having full control, read, write, and change access to TSC.EXE, I selected the "Deny" for every and everything.

Trend Micro TSC.EXE CPU and Hard Driver performance fix 1

5. I was prompted by Windows "You have denied everyone access to TSC.EXE. No one will be able to access TSC.EXE and only the owner will be able to change the permissions. Do you wish to continue?" Of course, I do -- if I deny access, then the machine cannot start the process. I selected "Yes".

Trend Micro TSC.EXE CPU and Hard Drive Performance Fix 2

6. I clicked on "OK" to confirm my choice.

Now the computer works like a charm on startup as well as returning from the hibernation mode.

Are you having a problem with TSC.EXE? Did this solution work for you?

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Jungle Tour & Snorkeling in Cancun, Mexico

Today’s “program” as they like to call them down here in Mexico was taking the Jungle Tour with Aqua Fun just a 15 minute walk from the Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort. The theme of the tour is to hop into a little two-seater boat with a outboard engine and zoom through the Laguna de Nichupte (Lagoon), a “jungle”, and then spend an hour snorkeling off of a reef before returning.

Our Boats at the Jungle Tour in Cancun, Mexico

This was probably the best “program” overall that we had this week from both it’s easy of access and the experience itself. We had a lot of fun on this one and Ashley did not get too sea-sick, which is a first for her. That is a great success in itself.

Before boarding our boats, we needed to pay a total of 42 pesos (or $2 each) to the “Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas” in order to benefit the Mexican Government in support of protecting natural habitats. Which, of course we were happy to do. Once boarding we got in our little boats shortly before 10:00am and headed out.

I am driving our boat on the Jungle Tour towards the reef in Cancun, Mexico

The lagoon’s water was pretty smooth and the journey took about 20 minutes to get through the lagoon and out to the reef on the Caribbean Sea where we were to snorkel. It’s called the “Jungle Tour” but is really more of a snorkel tour where you go through a few groves of thick Mangrove trees. They are jungle-like, perhaps not as you might expect from the tour description.

The Jungle of Mangrove trees on our Tour in Cancun Mexico

Once at the reef, we’re given our masks to combine with our flippers and snorkels we received on shore and given around an hour to explore. Since we had a relatively early morning excursion, the waters were still very calm making life easier for Ashley.

The clarity and quality of the reef was one of the better that I had seen, even post Hurricane Wilma which was a little bit of a surprise given the number of people that visit this reef each day. This includes both Jamaica and multiple visits to Hawaii. The kind of person destruction you see at Hanauma Bay in Hawaii is not here. You can see a number of living corals, some of which are still recovering from the Hurricane – but in general the quality is decent. Also, a number of species of fish and several schools swim right through you as you explore.

Unfortunately, pictures will need to come a little later as our underwater camera is a simple Fuji throw-away as I forgot to order a water-proof case for my Canon G7 before heading out on this trip. That being said, I am hoping to have a few spectacular shots to update this post with.

Towards the end of the snorkel time, the seas started to get a little choppier. Luckily, we were able to get into our boat and start moving again before Ashley became too seasick. In another 25 minutes we were back on land. We showered off really quickly in the outdoor shower and gave a small tip to the guides who did a pretty good job.

This is a tour that we would both highly recommend due to a reasonable price ($55/person) as well as an excellent experience. If you do tend to get seasick the advice would be to go as early in the morning as possible as the seas will be calmer and the clarity of the water will be higher. Our tour started at 10:00am, and would probably have been even calmer had we started at 8:00am.

From a company perspective from the other boats we saw out at the reef, Aqua Fun provided the newest equipment that was in the best condition.

Have you taken the Jungle Tour? What did you think?

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