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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Help! My Wii is Stuck on the Language Screen - Fixed Now!

This post is one of several on how to fix problems with your Nintendo Wii. To see the entire list, click here for the Nintendo Wii Repair Guide.

I recently had to reset my Nintendo Wii and had a few problems with getting it set back up correctly. Namely, my Wii would not go beyond the language screen and appeared to be stuck there. My Wii Remote (Wiimote) was not functioning properly, but it did have it's sync (here's how to sync it). The problem I had was that it turned out my Wii's sensor bar was not plugged in properly -- so it was a pretty easy solution to fix the problem for me. Remember to always check your connections!

Detailed instructions from Nintendo on how you can fix it are followed below:
If your screen appears frozen at the Language select screen, we have found that to be related to the Sensor Bar. Please try the following:

Ensure that the Sensor Bar cord is plugged snugly to the back of the console, and is placed properly at the center of your TV screen. For detailed directions on setting up the Sensor Bar, please click here.

Check to be sure the Wii Remote is synced to the console, by using the Power button on the Wii Remote to turn the console on. (The power button is the small white button with the red symbol in the top-left corner, just above the Control Pad). If this doesn't work, try to sync the Wii Remote. Once synced, try to turn the power on the console on and check for proper response.

Make sure that the Wii Remote is being used between 3' and 10' directly in front of the TV and that there are no bright light sources affecting the Wii Remote's operation (review Game Play Guidelines for more information), and that the Sensor Bar is placed properly (see Sensor Bar setup). Avoid sources of infrared light in the gameplay area such as electric, propane or kerosene heaters, flames from fireplaces or candles, and stoves or other sources of heat.

If you are still experiencing problems after trying the steps above, there could be a problem with your Sensor Bar. Please read the following:

The Sensor Bar has five infrared lights on each side of the bar that the Wii Remote uses to determine its position. If these lights aren't working, then the Wii Remote cursor will not display on the screen, and you won't be able to navigate the setup screens.

Wii Stuck on Language Screen sensor bar lights

To see these lights, you will need a digital camera or cell phone camera with an LCD display. After making sure the Sensor Bar is plugged in and the power to the console turned on, direct the camera at the Sensor Bar so that it is displayed in the LCD of the camera. If the five infrared lights can be seen on both sides of the Sensor Bar, the Sensor Bar is working. While the position/angle of the camera may need to be adjusted slightly, the lights are fairly easy to see in the LCD display.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Yes or No? Leveraging Interest Free Credit Card Transfer for Free Money

I will admit it; I am pretty particular about my beliefs and research when it comes to personal finance. There are a ton of sites out there that want to tell you how you can make money, or better yet – make the money you have work better for you.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I follow the MyMoney Blog through Google Reader, scanning some of the article, of which sometimes I find some value that keeps me reading. One thing that continues to alarm me from Jonathan's posts are his use of Credit Cards to generate "interest free" investment capital of the 20k plus he has on cards by leveraging the free interest offers that several credit card companies offer.

Jonathan mentions that it may be alarming the amount of credit card debit he has, but then explains his reasoning for his decision to use it. I will admit, it does sounds good – who does not want free money raise their hand – no one! However, I entirely disagree with Jonathan about the level or risks associated with this "free money" tool and believe its use should be a rarity.

In fact, in his situation of trying to purchase a new home, one would think it could be particularly damaging. When you lay it out, a 3% gain of $600 a year after tax (assuming leveraging a high-yield savings account) versus the risk of negative impact just does not seem worth it.

Here are some of the reasons why.

1. Credit Cards continue to offer free interest on balance transfers. This is a huge assumption that this play makes. Let's say that 6-months from now research shows that the free interest offers do not increase the lifetime value of the customer. Credit card offers of free transfers dry up and six months later you have a huge debt to pay off or you now pay interest on a monthly basis that quickly exceeds your potential gain.

2. What if you miss a payment? Do you ever go on vacation? Have you ever been late on a payment? Ever have an emergency? If any of those happen to you then your interest rate on that entire stack of money jumps to 21% or higher. In two months you've lost more than you could have made in the entire year, actually putting you in the hole for something that you wanted to make money.

3. Want your credit score to take a hit? Well, it is a proven formula, open up lots of credit cards and use up large portions of your available credit and you score will go down – even if you always pay your bill on time. Looking to buy that first home?

There are a few others which I am not even covering here. Basically, the summary is this: Can you use interest free credit card balance transfer to increase your income? Yes, you can – however, the risks associated with it strongly outweigh the benefits. Especially since there is a coming climate change in the marketplace that will threaten such offers.

How many people have obtained their financial goals by loading themselves up with five or six figures of credit card debit? You already know the answer to that.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fixed? Green Line on 1080i with Verizon FiOS IMG

Apparently I am not the only one having this problem. At first I was thinking it was my Vizio 42" 1080p LCD television having the problem with displaying 1080i resolution. Today I found out that the issue is with Verizon's FIOS Interactive Media Guide on the Motorola's QUIP6416-2 HD/DVR supporting 1080i resolution properly and not the Vizio VU42LF's fault.

Here is what I am talking about in the below picture, notice the green vertical bar on the LCD screen on the right side that the arrow is pointing towards.

Vizio LCD TV 42-inch with Green Line proble on the Verizon FIOS IMG (Interactive Media Guide) at 1080i resolution with Motorola's QUIP6416-2 HD DVR

How did I find out? First off, the problem only exists when I am on an actual channel that is broadcasting in high definition -- say ABC HD or ESPNHD. The problem does not exist on other channels when running in the 1080i mode. At first I tried to see if the issue was with the positioning on the screen. While I could mask most of the issues by moving the screen to the right -- it messed up the pictures on the other pages.

Then another oddity -- my Sony Projection Television did not have the same symptoms running at 1080i, so I assumed it was a problem with the Vizio LCD television. After some research though, I have determined that is not the case.

Basically, because of the scanning / overscanning on projection type televisions -- they are not affected by this particular problem with the green line, and in some cases a partial picture on the left side. However, most LCD and plasma televisions experience this sort of issue with the Verizon FiOS IMG service.

Luckily, the issue does not happen on other resolutions including the 720p resolution on IMG. The picture below shows the television picture running at 720p without the annoying green line on the right side.
Vizio LCD TV 42-inch working fine with the Verizon FIOS IMG (Interactive Media Guide) at 720p resolution with Motorola's QUIP6416-2 HD DVR

What's the fix? Currently there is not a fix for the 1080i resolution problem on the Verizon FiOS Interactive Media Guide system. However, I did speak with a technical support representative today to log the issue on my account. The representatvie stated that this was a known issue and will be fixed in the next patch or upgrade in 4-6 weeks. That and a few other "stability" fixes for the Motorola QUIP6416-2 and the IMG operating system.

I would recommend switching to 720p for the time being and then once the fix is out there, switching up to 1080i to enjoy it without the green line. I will be updating my site once the fix is out.

Are you also experiencing the Verizon FiOS green line issue on your television? If so, can you leave a comment with your television model number to help others?

Update: An IMG update was made to all Verizon FiOS boxes on 12/12/07, however that fix did not correct the 1080i and green line issue. Please click here for the details.

Update 2: An IMG update in October 2008 was made an has fixed the issue for most users. Click here for more information.

Astar Electronics
Audiovox Corporation.
BenQ America Corp.
Casio Inc.
Coby Electronics
Curtis Manufacturing
Dell, Inc.
Dynex Products
Electrograph Systems, Inc.
GPX Inc.
Haier America Trading, L.L.C.
Hannspree, Inc.
Hitachi America Ltd.
HUMAX Co., Ltd.
Hyundai Electronics America
In Focus Systems, Inc.
Info-Tek Corporation
Initial Technology, Inc.
Jeep Provisions
JVC America
jWIN Electronics Corp.
LG Electronics U.S.A.
Marshall Electronics Inc.
Mintek Digital
NEC Corporation
Niko Electronics, Inc.
Norcent Technologies
Philips Consumer Electronics
Pioneer North America
Planar Systems, Inc.
Polaroid Corp.
Pyle Audio
Sanyo Fisher Company
Sceptre Inc.
Sharp Electronics Corp.
Soyo Computer Inc.
Spectra Logic Corporation
Syntax Groups Corporation
Universal BUSlink
VariZoom Lens Controls
ViewSonic Corp.
Westinghouse Digital Electronics
WinBook Computer
Xerox Corp.
Zenith Electronics Corporation

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Using the Blackberry 8800 as an USB Tethered Modem

Several months ago, my post on using the Blackberry 8800 wirelessly via a bluetooth modem was the first on the RIM Blackberry 8800 series of phones. With the tips in the post, you could easily get your RIM Blackberry 8800, 8820, or 8830 device working as a high-speed wireless modem for your laptop or even desktop computer. In fact the post quickly became one of the more popular posts on my blog, and the number of people that visit the post each day is in the 100's.

Recently, Matt Silverman let me know about his post in which he was able to use his Blackberry 8800 series phone as a tethered USB modem. Since I just got my new Lenovo (no IBM label interestingly) T61 laptop computer, I thought I would give it a try since I had not yet setup Bluetooth.

Matt's guide was pretty good and with a few tweaks, I was able to get my Blackberry 8800 to work. I've combined his steps and my guide here to make it as straight-forward and easy for your setup your Blackberry as the tethered USB modem.

Here are a couple of reasons why you might prefer a USB tethered solution to the Bluetooth wireless solution:
1. You laptop does not have Bluetooth setup or you are having problems configuring it.
2. You need to conserve battery usage on your Blackberry. The wireless mode consumes significantly more battery than the USB mode. If you need to use the modem for any length of time, the USB tethered modem option is preferred.

This guide should be compatible with the following Blackberry models: Blackberry 8800, Blackberry 8820, Blackberry 8830, Blackberry Pearl, Blackberry Curve. In addition to the Blackberry device installed, you will also need the Blackberry Desktop Manager software installed (I have installed), and AT&T wireless with unlimited data. This may work with other cell phone providers such as T-Mobile or Verizon, but has not been tested. This guide was composed using Windows XP, so other operating systems may have slight differences.

Here is the step-by-step guide:
1. First you need to configure the "Standard Modem" that is installed with your Blackberry Desktop software. Do get to it quickly, right click on "My Computer" from the desktop and select "Manage Computer".

2. Click on "Device Manager" in the left hand pane.

3. Click on the plus (+) sign next to modems to expand them.

4. Right click on "Standard Modem" and select properties.

5. Go to the Advanced tab under Extra Settings and enter the following "Extra initialization commmands" without any leading spaces: AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","wap.cingular"

6. Click "Ok" to save the settings.

7. Now start the "Create a new connection" wizard from Network connections by right clicking on "My Network Places" and selecting properties. In the left pane under "Network Taks" click on "Create a new connection."

8. Click on 'Next' from the 'Welcome to the New Connection Wizard' screen.
Blackberry 8800 Curve Pearl Tethered USB Wireless Modem Picture 1

9. Select the 'Connect to the Internet' Radio button and click 'Next'.
Blackberry 8800 Curve Pearl Tethered USB Wireless Modem Picture 2

10. Select the 'Set up my connection manually' radio button and click 'Next'.
Blackberry 8800 Curve Pearl Tethered USB Wireless Modem Picture 3

11. Select 'Connect using a dial-up modem' radio button and click 'Next'.
Blackberry 8800 Curve Pearl Tethered USB Wireless Modem Picture 4

12. Select the 'Modem - Standard Modem' as device and click 'Next'.
Blackberry 8800 Curve Pearl Tethered USB Wireless Modem Picture 5

13. Name your connection as you desire. I choose 'Blackberry Tethered USB Modem' as my name and click 'Next'.
Blackberry 8800 Curve Pearl Tethered USB Wireless Modem Picture 6

14. For the phone number, enter the follow string without the quotes "*99***1#" and click on 'Next'.
Blackberry 8800 Curve Pearl Tethered USB Wireless Modem Picture 7

15. Select the connection's availability for 'Anyone's use' unless you have a reason to lock it down. Then click 'Next'.
Blackberry 8800 Curve Pearl Tethered USB Wireless Modem Picture 8

16. Enter the username and password information. For 'User name' enter "ISP@CINGULARGPRS.COM" without the quotes, and for the 'Password' enter "CINGULAR1" without the quotes. Enter the password again to confirm and click on 'Next'.
Blackberry 8800 Curve Pearl Tethered USB Wireless Modem Picture 9

17. Click on 'Finish' to complete the wizard.
Blackberry 8800 Curve Pearl Tethered USB Wireless Modem Picture 10

18. While this configuration with very little advanced settings will work, you need to adjust a couple of the settings to optimize the connection speed. Go to the properties of your new connection by clicking the properties button. Select the modem that is being used via the USB tethered modem, and click on 'Configure'.
Blackberry 8800 Curve Pearl Tethered USB Wireless Modem Picture 11

19. Now change the Maximum speed (bps) to 921600 from the default 115200 (EDGE can operate faster) and also select the checkboxes for 'Enable modem error control' and 'Enable modem compression' for the best results. Click on 'Ok' twice to complete.
Blackberry 8800 Curve Pearl Tethered USB Wireless Modem Picture 12

Now you can connect your computer to the internet via the Blackberry USB tethered modem connection. To do so, make sure you Blackberry is connected via USB cable, and that the Blackberry Desktop Manager is running with you modem connected. Then connect to the AT&T/Cingular/Edge network and enjoy high-speed access!

Did this guide work for you? If so, please leave a comment and let me know!

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New Malibu Fire on November 24, 2007

We started off today with plans to leave Anaheim, CA and our 4th annual trip to Disneyland, then we turned on the television in the midst of the red flag warning through 3:00pm today.

Malibu, California fire on November 24, 2007

To our surprise, not the first fire, not the second fire, but the third fire in Malibu, California this year -- and it has been burning since 3:00am this morning. The fire started in an area of Corral Canyon or Latigo canyon in an area that may not have burned since 1993.

We then ate a quick breakfast and headed on our way home.

As of this post, 35 homes had burned -- there is a large amount of support, including the famous DC-10 airplane - the 10 Tanker Air Carrier supporting the fire. In fact on our way home we were able to see it, in the picture below approaching its second drop.

Picture of 10 Tanker Air Carrier fighting the November 2007 Malibu Fires

As of now, the 1500 acre blaze is buring north and west, directionally towards our home. The fire fighters are attempting to stop the fire at Kanan Dume road. If not, the fire could come fairly close here -- although we would likely still be in the clear, even if it does.

These photos were taken during our drive home from Anaheim to Newbury Park today.

A picture of the November 2007 Malibu fire from the 101 freeway in Calabasas, CA

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Malarone Side Effects - Malaria Medicine and Me

One of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations when traveling abroad, and especially in India is to take an anti-malaria medication regimens like Mefloquine, Doxycycline, or Malarone. While not always 100% effective, they are helpful in preventing Malaria resulting from mosquito or other bug bites.

Due to it's somewhat documented lower incidents of side effects, I elected for Malarone (Atovaquone and Proguanil) on each of my three trips to India. The regimen starts 24-48 hours before exposure and continues 7 days after exposure.

Gladly, I just completed my prescription for this last trip and it could not have been sooner. While I had not noticed specific side effects from the medication in the past, given the way I felt this week -- I was wondering what the side effects were and if I was suffering from them.

A little more information on Malarone:

Malarone is a antiprotozoal medication. Antiprotozoal is a type of medicines that is used to prevent and treat malaria, a red blood cell infection transmitted by the bite of a mosquito. This medicine is the combination of two medicines, atovaquone and proguanil.

These are the "known" side effects of Malarone":
More common
Abdominal pain; back pain; coughing; diarrhea; dreams; fever; headache; itching skin ; lack of or loss of strength; nausea; muscle pain; sore throat; sores in mouth; sneezing; vomiting

Less common
Acid or sour stomach; belching; blurred or loss of vision; disturbed color perception; dizziness; double vision; flu like symptoms; halos around lights; heartburn; indigestion; loss of appetite; night blindness; overbright appearance of lights; sleeplessness; stomach discomfort, upset or pain; trouble sleeping; tunnel vision; unable to sleep; weight loss

RareDiscouragement; fear; feeling sad or empty; irritability; lack of appetite; loss of interest or pleasure; nervousness; trouble concentrating
It would seem that from the way I have been feeling the past week, that I have had both more and rare symptoms or side effects with this particular prescription of the Malarone pills: lack or loss of strength; nausea; acid or sour stomach; stomach discomfort, upset or pain; irritability.

While I initially thought the "lack of loss of stength" was due to jet lag, at this point it still continued 6 days after the trip -- I am now thinking it may be related to the Malarone. Plus, in addition to the rest of the symptoms it makes sense. Oddly, on my previous two regimens of Malarone, I had no noticable symptoms. Hopefully it only takes another day or two for everything to work itself out.

Have you used Malarone or another anti-malaria medication? If so, let me know about your experience below with a comment. I have not decided yet if I will look at another regimen for the next trip to India.

This post is not meant to represent medical advice, rather just my own personal experience with anti-malaria medication and Malarone. Please consult your doctor before choosing Malarone or any other drug. This site assumes no responsibility for the use of this post outside of anything other than a journal of personal experience.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving at Disneyland, 4th Annual Trip

Today was our fourth annual Thanksgiving celebration celebrated at Disneyland in Southern California. Four years ago, this all started on a whim. Looking for an alternative to spending all day in the kitchen, that could be better spent with the entire family – we decided to give the Disney Resorts in Southern California a try.
Ashley & Ken in front of Snow White's Castle Thanksgiving Day at Disneyland in Anaheim, California
Disneyland for Thanksgiving was great year one, better year two, and still great last year.

We were anticipating a larger crowd this year – Disney had heavily advertised Thanksgiving at Disneyland and California Adventure last year and the crowds had picked up some. While we did not see any advertisements this year, we were thinking the crowd growth could continue.

For that reason, we left the Doubletree Guest Suites just before 8:00am to catch the Anaheim Resort Transit (ART) to the Disney Resorts (an all-day ticket costs just $3 for as many round trips as you need up until 3:00am). After waiting a few minutes, all eight of us arrived at the park around 8:15am. The only item worth of note here is that passes for blackout days for Annual Pass holders are now $40/day rather than $30/day, a pretty large increase over our last visit.
The crew in at the Disneyland entrance on Thanksgiving day at California Adventure
While it was too late to locate a DreamPASS or get in line for Finding Nemo, we started off with the usual collection rides. Luckily, the rides had minimal waits and included Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Indiana Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbean. We were also able to grab a FastPass for Space Mountain so we could come back later. By the time we finished the rides, the California Adventure Park was opening.

We headed over there because we wanted a free snack at the Mission Tortilla Factory right near the Paradise Pier, where you can see my personal favorite video. The kids are presenting the importance of the tortilla itself as well as tortilla making. With, of course the dog saying my favorite work – Maseca!

After enjoying some rides at California Adventure we headed over to the StoryTeller CafĂ© in the Grand Californian Hotel. Our “reservation” or preferred seating time in Disney-speak was for 2:10pm – just a short time after the Thanksgiving buffet opened. At $29.99, it is hard to beat the meal and options included for their Thanksgiving feast. While the quality of the food (noticeably the Prime Rib and the stuffing) were not as good as previous years, it was still an enjoyable meal and better than many alternatives.
The Holiday Parade - A Christmas Fantasy - at Disneyland on Thanksgiving Day
After filling up, we spent a little more time at the park before we sneaked back to the hotel to “rest” and really watch the USC vs. Arizona State game. We all know how that turned out.

Once the game’s outcome was no longer in doubt we headed back to watch the Disneyland -- "Believe...In Holiday Magic" fireworks show. Most impressive this year is the new appearance of the “snow” on the castle as well as the new lighting. And of course a great fireworks show and snow (er, soap) falling from the sky.

Nice reflective shot of Snow White's Castle at night with lights at Disneyland on Thanksgiving

Finally, we used our FastPasses at Space Mountain before heading back to the hotel for the evening. Next year we'll need T-Shirts for our 5th year of having a Thanksgiving celebration at Disneyland

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Hidden Mickey: California Adventure: Tower of Terror

On a recent trip to Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure my nephews and niece spotted a new Hidden Mickey that they had not seen before. I must admit, neither Ashley nor myself have spotted it yet. In fact, we have not seen many Hidden Mickeys in the California Adventure park.

However, this one is clearly both a Hidden Mickey and a clever one like this. This particular Hidden Mickey is in one of my favorite rides, the Hollywood Hotel - Tower of Terror. A ride that takes you through the "Twilight Zone" adventure and drops you down an elevator shaft.

After you go through the video that introduces you to the ride and the experience you are about to have, you enter a waiting area. If you are lucky enough to be on the right side where they split the line into two lines. This is because it will take you upstairs where this hidden Mickey is!

Once you arrive upstairs, look above the elevator waiting area at the Hollywood Hotel's Tower of Terror and you will see three lights that make a Hidden Mickey! Look below for the picture.

Hidden Mickey at the Hollywood Hotel - Tower of Terror - at Disney's California Adventure

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Travel to Disneyland, Lovely Traffic

This afternoon we headed down from Calabasas, California for our fourth annual family Thanksgiving get together at Disneyland in Anaheim. We decided to head out around 3:00pm in order to “avoid” the traffic, however on a Wednesday before Thanksgiving, it is a given in the Los Angeles area that there would be some sort of traffic.

Of course, the Los Angeles Freeway system would not disappoint. Leaving shortly before 3:00pm, we headed through Malibu Canyon on our way to Pacific Coast Highway. This way, we can avoid the very heavy traffic on both the US 101 and Interstate 405 freeways. And of course through Malibu towards Santa Monica, there was very little traffic.

Then right before we were to get on the Interstate 10 freeway, we checked Google Maps and traffic was the dreaded red in color. Then it became and exercise to work our way through Santa Monica in order avoid it. Things did not get too bad until we hit the Interstate 105 freeway. While not quite a parking lot, it did take the better part of 45 minutes to make it across. Not too much longer, we were pulling into our hotel near Disneyland.

We are staying at the Doubletree Guest Suites in Anaheim – about a 15 minute walk for a couple of different reasons. First, being a Hilton HHonors Diamond VIP member – we’re entitled to some pretty good benefits. Secondly, given the recent price hikes at Disney’s Grand Californian to put it over $400/night – we decided that was too much to spend.

The Doubletree Guest Suites in Anaheim in an interesting hotel. This is the second time we have had an interesting experience and we will most likely be choosing the Hilton in Anaheim on subsequent visits. First, there are two flavors of their “free” breakfast buffet – a continental and a full version. For some reason, Diamond VIP members still do not get the full breakfast – which includes eggs, bacon and more. Only the continental is provided. Finally, and perhaps most annoying is that they do not perform the automatic upgrades that both Hilton HHonors Gold and Diamond VIPs are entitled to. In our case, it was not until after Ashley complained about our “standard” suite that we were upgraded to a full 2-room suite with views towards the pool and Disneyland. Even then, she was given some nasty looks by the receptionist when she exchanged our key cards.

For dinner, we headed over to Benihana’s for dinner with my parents. The wait was not too bad given the holiday evening at the restaurant – about an hour total wait. Our Teppanyaki experience was excellent with our cook Nick moving more quickly than we were used to. Given the shortened time to cook, the food was excellent and we left satisfied with our meal.

Once we arrived back at our hotel room, we had just enough time to catch the fireworks at Disneyland -- "Believe...In Holiday Magic" Fireworks Spectacular. It is quite a good fireworks show, of course not as good as when you are actually at the park. Still, it is the next best thing.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Working! Blackberry 8800 GPS Internationally in India

Great news to report on my recent trip to India in terms of the GPS working internationally on my Blackberry 8800 (Other models include the 8820, & 8830). If you recall from my trip back in July, I tried several times -- but could never get an accurate GPS signal in either Germany or India. After the success I had in Cancun, Mexico -- I decided it was worth another try in India to get some sort of GPS signal reception.

This time, after some fiddling with -- I was able to get the GPS to work. However, it was not easy...the good news is that once I finally located the GPS signal, it worked consistently.

When I walked off the plane, I immediately had phone service in Germany (Vodafone) and India (Air-Tel) along with data service. But GPS did not work immediately in either location.

How did I get it to work?

Well, the famous Blackberry 3-finger salute. A reset of the entire device by simultaneously holding down ALT+CAP+DEL seemed to resolve the issue. After approximately one minute for the device to reset, it started to pick up the necessary GPS signals from the satellite and I was live in India!

I ended up using the GPS device with Google Maps for the majority of the trip in Bangalore. While I was not driving, it gave me a much better perspective of where I was in the city of Bangalore. For how chaotic the city was -- the Google maps were very detailed, even down to many of the side or unlabled roads. This makes it easy to understand where you are in the city. An added benefit of the mapping in Bangalore, India is that it includes a number of notable sites as icons on the maps such as temples, parks and other places of note. Great, especially if you are out sight-seeing.

In some of the more remote areas of the country such as Coimbatore, the maps are no where near as developed. Some of the main routes into and out of the cities are included, but not a lot of the streets around town.

Still, it was a great relief to get ths Blackberry 8800's GPS working in India. It only took me two trips. If you are running into any problems with your GPS internationally, I would recommend the ALT+CAP+DEL 3-finger salute a try before you get too frustrated!

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Jet Lag, No Way To Avoid It?

Well, there goes that theory.

I woke up abruptly at 2:00am this morning after returning from my trip to India on Saturday afternoon. After laying in bed for two hours, attempting to go back to sleep -- I finally got out of bed and decided to call it a night. Frustrating jet lag.

This development relatively unexpected for me as I managed my sleep and awake time pretty well. I thought I was in the clear from any possible jet lag until this morning.

- I slept good amounts of time on both the Chennai to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Los Los Angeles flights.
- I had a great dinner out and was able to stay up on Saturday night until almost 10:00pm and got a full night worth of sleep.
- I did not need any naps on Sunday to make it through the day and went to bed at a fairly normal time, 11:00pm.

On my first trip to India, this was all I needed and I was pretty much in good shape. On the second trip, all bets were off as I was already getting sick -- and I was doomed to a couple of zombie like days. Let's hope that I am not in the jet lagged state for too much longer from this trip!

This means that I am in for not only a long work day today, but a few cups of Starbucks coffee may be necessary to get me through it without a nap. Let's hope things are more normal tomorrow night and an end to the jet lag.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

P2K Commander 4.9.E Available - includes Vista x64 Compatibility!

After a four month hiatus from updates, P2K Commander has finally been updated and the results are rather impressive! Thus far, the P2K Commander 4.9 versions (4.9.A, 4.9.B, 4.9.C, and 4.9.D) had not worked well on Microsoft Windows Vista, even with an upgrade to the P2K Commander Windows Vista executable I mentioned here. Even with that, there was still no love for Windows Vista 64-bit (x86).

P2K Commander version 4.9.E is now available including Vista and 64-bit (x64) support!

However, with P2KCommander version all of that has changed. (You can download yours here.) Today, with a simple download, extract and start-up -- I immediately had connectivity to my Motorola RAZR V3 phone. This was perhaps the easiest installation I have had for the P2KCommander suite of software. Help text is also now available in Hungarian and German in addition to English.

More to come on the features, but here are the latest release notes:

Vista comp. Can copy multiple seem folders at once.
Manage favourite folders, bugfix: port above COM10, volumes if only /a present
P2kAutostart fully integrated.
If selected, it registers itseft into registry. and next boot starts automatically.
If Autorun P2kCommander and autoswitch to p2kmode selected there is a maximum comfort.
If you plug your phone, P2kCommander starts and switch to p2kmode immedialtely.
New P2kAutostart: restart,flashmode,start skinner4moto, recognize phone model
New P2kCommander: p2kc file executes attrib command.
p2kc commands: see faqxxx.txt file in p2kc_batch_example folder
More multithreading. You can close wait window, and browse filesystem while loading filenames!

While it states that P2K Commander 4.9.D did have Vista compatibility, I was not able to confirm until version 4.9.E. This appears to be the best P2K Commander version available yet -- I recommend updating yours today!

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Those Little Pamphlets in your Suitcase

No secret here, I travel a lot – for both business and pleasure. In all of my travels since 9/11 – my guess about 200 flights, my checked baggage had never been inspected by the TSA. I always find this a little odd since we have both friends and co-workers that always get inspected by the TSA. In fact, one person who works with my wife believes she has been inspected every time she travels. I guess it is just the luck of the draw.

That was until now.

Tonight when I arrived in my hotel room at the Leela Palace in Bangalore, India – I opened up my suitcase and what did I find? Boom, there it was that pamphlet to let me know my baggage was inspected by the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration). Nothing was out of place or any more messed up that it normally gets on those two marathon flights.

But now I know how it feels!

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bangalore Arrival, Leela Palace Relaxation

This morning pretty early, around 1:20am – I arrived at the Bangalore airport to what I would normally call “Southern California” weather. Nice and cool with relatively low humidity. I performed my usual couple of tasks there, hurry down the stairs, get through initial customs, change $200 USD to Indian Rupees, and stand next to the luggage conveyor belt.

International Terminal and Baggage Claim in Bangalore, India

Given my late arriving connection flight – I was wondering if my bag was going to be on the flight at all. I did not have to wait long as my bag was one the third one off of the Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet. It was ice cold too, if I might add. I grabbed the suitcase off the belt and waited for my colleague Mike Owen to get his. Of course his had to be one of the last ones off.

Then Mike and I went through the second customs area to greet our contact from the Leela Palace Kempinski , Bangalore – which enables you to avoid the masses outside the airport in the scramble to locate your drive. Or worse, hail a cab. Initially, the representative from Leela did not have the confirmation for the transfer for either Mike or I. Still he went ahead and escorted us out quickly to the private cars that the Leela Palace use to transfer people from the Bangalore airport to the Leela.

The Leela Palace Kempinski was even closer to the airport than I remembered. Within five minutes we arrived – I handed out a couple hundred rupees to the drive – and we went inside to check-in. Seated in the beautiful lobby, they quickly checked us in and handed over our keys. Since I was going to stay a day longer than Mike, but the hotel was full – I put in a priority request for Wednesday night, hoping that I would not need to transfer hotels.

When I arrived into the room, I was pretty relieved. Based on the poor experience at the Chauncery Pavilion a few months prior – the Leela met my expectations and had a room worthy of note. Much like you would find at any resort in the United States. I quickly headed to bed to get some rest.

In the morning, we met up for breakfast and enjoyed the buffet at the Leela Palace. While expensive at 690 rupees, or about $17.50 – the buffet is special enough that it deserves mention. It was great to enjoy the various mix of Indian and American breakfast items and fresh fruit, all outside on the patio in the warm Bangalore morning.

After breakfast it was off to a couple of familiar sites for myself – since it was Mike’s first time in Bangalore and I was more interested in relaxing – we visited both the Lalbagh Botantical Garden, the Bangalore Palace, and finally the Karnataka government buildings.

I enjoy visiting with people whom it is their first time in India. I think the first day is a lot of fun, especially when riding in the cars. Those who are not used to the type of traffic and close driving quarters that exist – generally are pretty nervous in the car. A “veteran” of three trips to India now, it seems to be part of the norm for me.

After our quick “programs” for the day, we resisted the urge to take a nap and headed down to the pool. The pool at the Leela is equally impressive with its clear blue water and resort feel along with poolside massages. There is a little dining area where we grabbed a table and hang out for the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sun and fresh air.

After a small snack for dinner, I headed off for bed – dead tired from the journey and trying to stay up late enough to not wake up at 4:00am in the morning.

I am looking forward to the upcoming work week and hopefully missing any jet lag!

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The Mythical 80-hour Work Week

Often times when I run into new friends or engage in social conversations – I hear about how hard they work, and usually the conversation digresses into a couple of folks making some statements about their 80-hour work weeks, followed by the head nodding of the rest of the group.. That’s right, 80 hours or double what a “normal” work week would be considered.

Yes, I know America is the land of great exaggerators. But, do people realize how long an 80-hour work really is? I think people make these statements without really considering how big of a number that is.

What I have come to believe is that for most people this is grossly exaggerated, thus creating what I call the “Mythical 80-hour Work Week.”

Working 80 hours in a work week is an awful lot. That means a 16-hour work day EACH day during the week. Throw in a lunch hour or even eating at your desk while checking on your favorite websites or Gmail and that is a solid 17 hours. That leaves only 7 hours to eat breakfast, dinner, do any errands and sleep.

How unlikely does it sound? Well, you would need to start work each morning at 5am and not finish or leave the office until 10pm. Very few people truly do this.

Furthermore, take my recent case of a day trip – if you count the same as I do, that would be a 17-hour work day. Even if I work 10-hour days for the rest of the week, say 7am-6pm – it would be less than a 60-hour work week.

On a couple of occasions, just for fun I have asked, “What office hours are you keeping anyways?” The answer given is usually, well I am usually in the office from 8am-7pm and then I answer emails once I do some things around the house. Read about 60 hours a week.

Now of course there are a few people that put in 80 hours weeks, or some of us that are in the technology will do that around special projects and deadlines. In fact, I know some folks that do this more than they should.

However, in general, there is a “Mythical 80-hour Work Week” phenomenon out there. Watch out for it!

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Close Call in Frankfurt, On to Bangalore

When I went to sleep last night after a lengthy meal on the plane, I was going to have plenty of time to spare once I landed in Frankfurt. This morning as I woke up for breakfast it looks like it will be a close call once we arrive into the airport to make the transfer.

On a side note, it feels like all they do is constantly feed you on these business class flights. After four optional courses of food for dinner, now here comes a large breakfast just four hours later. Now on the Bangalore flight, it looks like a three course lunch and a four course dinner. I will likely decline most of this food – how can anyone eat this much (4 large meals in 20 hours) is beyond me – and I like to eat a lot of food.

Because of inclement weather in Frankfurt, we are delayed by an additional 25 minutes into the landing – making the landing at 12:00pm, just 30 minutes before the flight departure for Bangalore. Luckily the gate is in the same terminal meaning that I will not have to run. Hopefully my luggage makes it with me to Bangalore – fingers crossed.

Once we finally land and I get off the plane, there is a Lufthansa representative there to escort the 5 of us on the LAX --> FRA flight over to the Bangalore gate. We all make it onto the plane and have an easy time boarding since everyone else is already on the plane.

Apparently, we could have taken more time – several other flights were delayed inbound to Frankfurt so we kick back and relax for an additional 20 minutes while everyone boards.

I am planning on this flight being both a productive and relaxing flight. I slept most of the LAX --> FRA flight to get myself on the India time zone more easily. On this flight I plan working on a couple of posts (including this one), catching up on email, and reading the book – “Searching for God Knows What” by Donald Miller – the author of “Blue Like Jazz”. I started it a couple of years ago and never made the time to finish it. So I am starting over and strongly desire to finish it this trip. I will let you know how it goes.

We land in Bangalore on Sunday, November 11th – so some details will follow there. One difference on this trip is that we are getting a direct transfer from the Leela Palace Kempinski rather than having our driver. With this, we avoid the throngs of people outside the airport with lists of names that take you a half-hour to locate yours. We’ll get out driver for the week tomorrow.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Learning to Fly on Lufthansa

We took off from Los Angeles about 15 minutes ago and it has been an educating day for me.

For my flight to Bangalore today, I decided to get to the airport a little earlier than usual so that I could take some conference calls and answer emails from the comforts of the Star Alliance lounge. With that idea in mind, I headed for LAX at around 8:15am, expecting to arrive at the International Terminal around 9:30am – also missing the majority of the morning traffic rush by heading through Malibu on Pacific Coast Highway.

Lufthansa Flight to Bangalore on the 747-400

I did arrive at the airport close to the time that I was expecting and found a little surprise. The ticket counters at the Los Angeles airport do not open until shortly after 10:30am. So with that in mind, I jumped into the line just before 10:00am. (Later I realized that with only 3 flights or less a day out of Los Angeles, it probably makes sense for them not to be open.

As I was standing in line, I noticed on the departure board that the flight was showing a 1 hour and 20 minute delay from the expected departure time of 2:30pm. I started to think the my connection in Frankfurt might be closer than I expected, but since I had 2.5 hours to grab a beer, bratwurst, and pretzel – I figured the worst I was going to sacrifice was the food.

However, that change when I reached the check-in counter and the agent told me – you are going to miss your connecting flight to Bangalore – but we can re-route you through Mumbai, let me take you to the ticket counter. I did not quite understand, but was quickly ushered over to the ticketing agent. The ticketing agent was a little more patient that the check-in agent and said that only the Hyderabad connecting flights would be missed. The other agent had been grossly misinformed.

Whew, I was then able to change the seating arrangements, taking care to insure that if we have a fighter jet escort again over Iraq that I would have a window seat to see it and take a picture.

I learned another lesson that the Star Alliance lounge at LAX. Unlike all the other Star Alliance lounges I have been to, being Star Alliance Gold does not get you into the first class lounge. It had worked in Delhi and Frankfurt in the past, apparently not in Los Angeles.

A few hours passed by in the lounge.....

The flight ended up being a little more delayed than first expected. Once the flight arrived it turned out our boarding time started at 3:40pm. Then an additional delay occurred in which customs agents stopping three families from boarding the plane lead to an overall departure time of 4:57pm.

Now it is getting a little too close for comfort. The only good news is that today’s flight is relatively short (9 hours, 40 minutes) due to some good tail winds. Let's hope we can make up some of that time -- there is nothing like running from one gate to another on an international flight.

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How many hours do you work in a day?

I have recently had some recurring discussions with my friends. It is centered on work-life balance and really, I mean really – how many hours do you work in a day? As you will see me write about in next days here, I believe that a lot of Americans – especially those I run into in certain circles – grossly exaggerate the amount they actually work.

So to that end, take this real-life situation from one day of my travel schedule a few weeks ago…

I woke up at 4:00am and left the house by 4:30am to catch a 6:00am flight to San Francisco. My flight lands at 7:30am and I drive down to my office taking a couple of conference calls arriving at 9:00am. I work through the day, taking a working lunch and leave for the airport at 5:00pm to catch a 7:30pm flight, taking more calls during the day. My flight lands in Los Angeles at 9:00pm, and I arrive at my house at 10:30pm.

How much time on that day was I working? Choose your answer:

A. 8 hours – Traveling is part of the job, and only the hours you spend in the office doing quality work count. 9am-5pm is only 8 hours.
B. 12 hours – Traveling is part of the job, however when you are telecommuting in the car and taking phone calls is working. Work was happening from 7:30am to 7:30pm.
C. 17 hours – There is some amount of commuting required to get to any job. Just subtract the amount of time that you would normally spend and subtract that from the total to get 17 hours.
D. 18.5 hours – from the moment you wake to when you get home, you’re thinking about work so just count it all. In fact, if you did not go to bed until 11:00pm, add another .5 hour to that total.
E. Another number.

If I were the one counting here, I would choose “C” based on my sense of workplace hours. Since my normal commute is 20 minutes each way, that is something I have to do either way, regardless if I am traveling that day. So, subtract that from the total and you get your number of hours worked.

How would you not only choose, but also rationalize it?

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Back to Bangalore - Here We Go Again

As I mentioned at the beginning of this month, November will be a month with a good amount of travel, including my second trip this year to India. This time I will be heading back to Bangalore for three business days, and then heading down to Coimbatore for two business days before heading back.

Initially, I had thought about taking the western route through Singapore just for the experience. However, a couple of complications arose causing me to once again take Lufthansa through Frankfurt. The first problem was that the trip looked to be about 8 hours longer each way – when you are going for a week, every hour counts. Secondly, a co-worker that is traveling with me had already confirmed the route through Frankfurt. Other benefits of the Frankfurt route include German beer, bratwurst, brezel (pretzel bread), and of course Ashley’s favorite – genuine Hairbo Gummi Bears – actually made there in the EU.

I am looking at this trip quite a bit more apprehension than my last trip. On my last trip, I did not do too well with the food in southern India. That resulted in a couple of wasted nights and going through my full dosage of Levaquin that I had successfully avoided on my first trip back in 2006. I have a couple of ideas of the specific causes to my illness – but nothing I can be sure of, so I will be a lot more cautious this trip. I will also be packing a great assortment of snacks in my carry on bag – just to be on the safe side. On a side note, any good recommendations for places in the Bangalore & Leela Palace area?

Some better news on the hotel front, I went ahead and booked myself at the Leela Palace in Bangalore. Last time we stayed at the Chauncery Pavillion and it did not rank high on my list. The Leela has an outstanding reputation and is actually 45 minutes closer to the offices I am visiting than the Chauncery. That adds up to 1.5 hours extra a day – and when you are only there 3 days, that makes a whole lot of a difference. One little difficulty however, is that the last night before I fly out to Coimbatore – the Leela Palace is booked, so as of now I am booked at the Mapple, which looks nice on the Internet. I will try to get extended while in Bangalore, we will see.

For the first time I will be visiting the city (hard to call it a town) of Coimbatore. We have some operational groups down there and it will be the first time to be able to greet them and see how they are setup. What I am really looking forward to here is that the parents of one of my employees here in the United States are in Coimbatore. They will be coming to pick us up and take us to their place for a meal. I am pretty excited about that!

While I am not overall that excited for the trip, it is coming up really quick. In fact, I leave this upcoming Friday – November 9th, land in Bangalore on Sunday, fly to Coimbatore on Wednesday, and then fly back to Los Angeles on Friday – arriving at LAX on Saturday the 17th of November. It promises to be one quick trip!

On a side note, one benefit of the trip is that it will put me over the 100,000 mile plateau and 1k Premier status on United. The only reason that this is good news is that if you have to fly a lot, you might as well get something for it.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

iPhone & GMAIL: Ashley Finally Got her IMAP Access

It took longer than Google said it would. Today - Saturday, November 3rd Ashley finally had the magical "Forwarding and POP3/IMAP" tab show up in her GMAIL properties which could start the process of MAPI enabling he iPhone for the GMAIL account. Interestingly, IMAP was automatically enabled without any additional changes or selections being made.

Ashley had been waiting for this for awhile – mainly because she was sick of having to manage her GMAIL e-mail in two separate places. Once in her iPhone and then again through her web browser. In the end it took Google over “about a week” (here) they suggested – more like 10 days, but who is counting anyways?

We initially attempted to follow the instructions here, but there is one huge item to get right that is not mentioned -- and we missed this important key initially. If you had your iPhone setup to use the wizard based email application for GMAIL, you are not presented with an option to change between POP3 / IMAP or other types of connectivity.

Rather, you must DELETE your current GMAIL account on your Apple iPhone and then go through the standard (non-AOL, Hotmail, or Gmail) account addition process to have the option of selecting the right type of connectivity (IMAP) and complete the configuration process.

Luckily, once we got through the initial setup confusion, the rest of the configuration was very straight forward. Not to mention that article over at has some great advice and tips for making Gmail more effective with all the tagging, archiving, and sorting that you need.

Good luck and enjoy, Ashley is!

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Hiatus for the Month Of November?

The month of the November promises to be a crazy one no doubt. And for that reason, just giving a quick update here on SomeLifeBlog as it could be a quiet one on the posting front. The last couple of months had been good, providing adequate time fro work, personal, and some hobby writing here at SomeLifeBlog. That being said, I am not so positive on how November with the posting -- still not sure how the month will shape up but it looks to be insane.

The reasons? Are numerous, but include the two primaries:

Lots of travel. In the first couple of weeks, it looks like I am doing two stints in Mountain View, CA, a quick trip all the way out to Atlanta, GA (whew, this was cancelled), then fly back from Atlanta and the same day catch a flight to India for a week stay in Bangalore in Coimbatore. All of this before the week of Thanksgiving, wow! After Thanksgiving, looks like trips to Utah and Ohio are on tap.

New responsibilities at work. I have take on some additional R&Rs at my job over the past few weeks. For the most part it means a larger organization (~200 folks), and responsibility for product development, qa, data center, and operations. It has been a lot of fun, but also a lot more work!

So, with that it promises to be an exciting month -- but an unknown from the posting perspective. I have a lot of great things queued up, however am looking to balance a little more. Slacking on reading, I am looking to catch up on my 40+ hours of flight time round-trip to India.

See you soon!

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