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Monday, March 31, 2008

How to Disable Outer Buttons on Motorola RAZR Phone

Reader Dave recently asked about a problem that is pretty common with the Motorola RAZR V3 and similar lines of phones. His question, is there any way to disable the outer buttons on the Motorola RAZR phone? Think it is an interesting question? Here is why it is.

The default function on for the outer buttons on the RAZR phone is to change the ring tone or ring style of the phone. When people put their RAZRs in their pants or shirts it can cause the buttons to get knocked and change the ring style. In many cases it can be changed to the silent mode -- causing missed calls. That is no good.

To make a long story short, you cannot directly disable the outer buttons on your Motorola RAZR mobile. However, there is a way you can lock the buttons so that the sound profile does not change without your express permission. This is a great work around that you can tune to your convenience.

Here is the step-by-step guide that completes this tutorial. (If you're interested in the iPhone theme that I have installed on my RAZR pictured, that guide is here.)

1. Go to the Menu --> Settings on your RAZR phone.
Go to the Menu, Settings on your RAZR phone.

2. Scroll down to Security and click on Select.
Scroll down to Security and click on Select.

3. Scroll down to Lock Application and click on Select. You will be prompted for a Security code. Enter 1234 and click ok to unlock the next menu.
Scroll down to Lock Application and click on Select.

4. Scroll down to -Audio Locked and click on Change. It is about 20 items down, so be patient.
Scroll down to -Audio Locked and click on Change.  It is about 20 items down, so be patient.

5. Choose the Locked option and then click on Select to save it.
Choose the Locked option and then click on Select to save it.

6. Back out and close your RAZR. The test out using the side buttons. While you will hear the familiar beep, the Ring Style will not change on your phone. This effectively disables the outer button. Then when you open the phone, all you need to do is cancel the unlock code. If you want to change your audio you can do that as well. Too long of a security code? You can shorten that too!
Back out and close your RAZR.  The test out using the side buttons.  While you will hear the familiar beep, the Ring Style will not change on your phone.  This effectively disables the outer button.  Then when you open the phone, all you need to do is cancel the unlock code.  If you want to change your audio you can do that as well.  Too long of a security code?  You can shorten that too!

Congratulations, you have now disabled the outer buttons on your Motorola RAZR phone. Now you will not miss any calls due to a unplanned change in the Ring Style!

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Happy 95th Birthday Grandpa!

Today we had a family celebration for my Grandfather's 95th birthday. So, the entire 1st and 2nd generation kids made their way from various areas of the country to join in the celebration. While my Grandpa only lives 15 miles -- as the eagle flies -- from our home, others traveled from Bakersfield, Sacramento, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Washington to join us at his house in Fillmore, California.

A quick slide show and noted pictures from the birthday party:



A few static photos from the slide show:
A great shot of my Grandpa, Russ Hanscom on his 95th birthday.A great shot of my Grandpa, Russ Hanscom on his 95th birthday.


Grandpa gets the Mexican food -- one of his favorites and one of ours.  We picked up the food from La Cabana in Santa Paula, CA.Grandpa gets the Mexican food -- one of his favorites and one of ours. We picked up the food from La Cabana in Santa Paula, CA.

My dad and Dominic install my Grandpa's new 26 Vizio LCD Television.My dad and Dominic install my Grandpa's new 26" Vizio LCD Television.

My cousin Andy Hanscom and I catch upMy cousin Andy Hanscom and I catch up. Andy and I worked one summer on my Grandpa's ranch back in high school. Two memories we had: 1. My Grandpa did not like us working to music and had us turn if off. 2. We made a 50-mile bike ride to Ventura on our off day which I learned today that apparently my grandpa was not happy about. My cousin lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma these days.

A pretty good family photo take here including the 1st/2nd generations of the Hanscom clan.A pretty good family photo take here including the 1st/2nd generations of the Hanscom family. Russ & Patty Hanscom with their kids Andrew and Crystal. Paul & Terry Hanscom with their kids; Kenny and Ashley Hanscom, Dominic & Kimberly Brown. Dave & Penny Hanscom. And of course, my grandpa -- Russell Hanscom!


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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

PayPal’s Dispute Process – Slow, Even with Open and Shut Cases

eBay and PayPal’s dispute process is painfully slow. Especially when you believe you have an open and shut case. Not only that, but it appears based on my recent experience that they do not follow the process that they want you as a user to follow. Concerning, as it appears they do violate the user agreement which they ask you to adhere to.

As I mentioned in my “gray market lens” article recently, the seller that sent me a gray market lens in addition to having a standing seven day return policy (no exceptions) on their auction is refusing to accept a return for the camera lens. Rather than working out the situation, the seller decided to immediately escalate the case with PayPal to a claim from a simple dispute.

An additional important side note, eBay has now completely intertwined their complaint process with PayPal – if you used PayPal to make your purchase, you cannot also file with eBay to report an issue with a seller. This is unfortunate since many of the PayPal dispute criteria do not match with the sorts of eBay issues you can have.

The PayPal process is supposed to be the following. 1. One party escalates the dispute to a claim. 2. The seller has up to 10 days to respond. 3. PayPal provides the response to the buyer to see if there is a disagreement before proceeding. If the buyer disagrees, they are allowed to respond to the case. 4. Once both sides have responded, PayPal reviews the claim.

In my case, step three was completely missed and did not occur. The seller responded to the case on February 19th and then the case immediately went into the “Being reviewed by PayPal” status. What in the world was going on here?

After a quick call to PayPal, they mentioned in some cases that this happens. I asked why it would ever be in review status without having both sides of the story. Side-stepping the out-of-process issue with PayPal, the agent mentioned I could email PayPal at “resolution@paypal.com” and they would document my issue and add it to the log.

My sense here is even if the “claim” is not resolved in my favor that I have quite a leg to stand on in terms of a dispute with a credit card. The reason is that PayPal has not followed the process that they outline in their member agreement. While I am hopeful this will not be the case here, it could always be a possibility!

In order to make sure my position was clear, I went ahead and sent in an email to the resolution@paypal.com email address. PayPal logged it and the case continued. It appears that today PayPal contacted the seller again. My hope is that the case is on its last leg and PayPal’s contact was to confirm my position or ask for evidence that the seller did not offer the return policy.

Despite that, it does seem like this is taking an awfully long time – we are at two weeks since the dispute was changed into a claim. In that time, I have received no official contact from PayPal which is a little discouraging. Perhaps that does confirm my thoughts that this is really an “open and closed” case. I was assuming that the nature of this case would have an end result much more quickly.

Let’s hope it ends soon. That would mean I can return the lens shortly and get on without a gray market lens and buy what I really need. Have you had a PayPal dispute take this long?

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lakers vs. Warriors - 03/23/08 - From Staples Center (Video)

Wow, what a Los Angeles Lakers game at Staples Center this was. Not the outcome I had hoped for, but boy did we have a good time.

It started off with a great "Think you know us? Think again." intro, check out this clip:


But in the first half, even the European beer (Heineken) that we were enjoying could not dull the pain of the Lakers performance in the first half. It was frustrating to watch, especially as the Lakers descended into double-digit territory in their deficit with sloppy turnover ridden.

The Lake Show was behind the Warriors by 20 something points, not what we had come to see at all! But, after halftime the Lakers stepped it up in the second half. In fact they came all the way back to take the lead briefly before Stephen Jackson close it out with a pair of threes in the last minute.

And if someone had to put in the daggers to the Lakers comeback, it was preferable that Stephen Jackson did it rather than Al Harrington. Why? Because Stephen Jackson is on my Fantasy Basketball team and those shots he hit at the end put my Fantasy team of the hump for the week, practically sealing my regular season Fantasy Basketball victory.

The game was tense and thrilling, especially at the end – a welcome change for the first half performance. That and Nelly coming out on the floor after to chest bump Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson was an interesting sight to see from our 100's sections seat as well.

Rapper Nelly at Staples Center chest bumping with Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson after the Warriors beat the Lakers
One noticeable (and not necessarily good) change was made to what has become the traditional Sunday white uniform for the Lakers. This change, was the addition of the word “Los” on the chest right above the Lakers logo making it “Los Lakers”. And with my initial impression was that uniform was blemished by the presence of Los, I still do not get the reason -- it ruins the Sunday whites.

Kobe Bryan in his Los Lakers jersey for Fiesta Lakers at Staples Center
“Los Lakers” is part of the "Fiesta Lakers" celebration, which admittedly I do not entirely get. My understanding it is part of a Latino heritage celebration. That day there had been an event at the Convention Center for the celebration of which there are 5 other sister programs like them in the NBA (Los Spus, Los Suns, etc).

Yay for charity, nay for the logo change. Lakers, can we try a patch on the uniform next time instead? Because the Los Lakers jerseys were just plain ugly not to mention bad Spanish grammar -- Los Angeles Los Lakers?

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Happy Easter Everyone!

Today is perhaps the most important day that we as Christians celebrate. The reason for that is that it is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. This day, coupled with Christmas are the reasons for the faith that Christians have today. The importance of that day in our lives emphasizes the fact that we choose to spend it with family as much as we possibly can.

Riverlakes Church Bakersfield Easter Service at Bright House Networks Ampitheatre
This year once again we are spending the Easter weekend at my parents house up in Bakersfield, California where both my parents and sister and her husband live. And while we do miss attending our church on Easter Sunday, including the sunrise service that we have most years – it is always fun to go back to the church I grew up in.

Riverlakes Church in Bakersfield (or Fruitvale Community Church as I grew up knowing it), has their Easter celebration service at the Bright House Networks Amphitheatre at the Park at River Walk off of Stockdale Highway. It is a relatively large celebration by our standards – 6,000 people that attended the event last year and I would guess a similar number attended this year.

Another exciting thing for me is the opportunity to hear the teaching pastor, Dave Champness preach on Easter Sunday. I have known Dave since I was very young and it is always a joy to hear him speak when we visit my parents.

The service was a great celebration that featured singing by a large group of Kindergartners through 5th grade on stage. Boy, was it warm out in the intense March sunlight -- that's an understatement!

Here are some photos from the celebration:
Riverlakes Church Bakersfield Easter Service at Bright House Networks AmpitheatreA view from the start of the service with the Children getting ready to open up for the Easter service.

A view of the crowd in the grass section at the Riverlakes Church Easter service.A view of the crowd in the grass section at the Riverlakes Church Easter service.

My sister Kimberly and her Husband Dominic on Easter.My sister Kimberly and her Husband Dominic on Easter.

The Riverlakes Church hospitality table after the service.The Riverlakes Church hospitality table after the service.

Riverlakes Easter service crowd exiting after the serviceThe crowd at the end of the service.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Vista SP1 Update - 1 Hour 8 minutes to Install, wow!

Several weeks ago I found out that Microsoft Windows Vista SP1 was available. The only problem, it seemed to only be available to TechNet subscribers. Then last week, I saw a note that the service pack 1 for Vista was widely available. However, the SP1 update for my 64-bit system did not even show up in Windows Update as advertised. Trying to find the update, I went to Microsoft's Download Center to try and download it for my Vista Ultimate installation. If only I could find it.

Rather than being a clear link for the Microsoft Windows Vista Service Pack 1, the searching provide a number of links to overview information rather than SP1 itself. Even within those articles, there was no link to a download file. Surprising.

Finally, I decided to try the Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Five Language Standalone (KB936330) link and found. While the description of the article directs you to a smaller version of the download through Microsoft Update, nothing was showing up in Microsoft Update for me. This was reduce the size of the download from the 700MB size for my 64-bit (x64) system. So, I downloaded the larger version.

Note: Since I started composing this post I read that this is a known issue. If the Microsoft Windows Vista SP1 Update is not showing up for you. go to KB948343 for a possible fix. I will be trying this before I apply this update to Ashley's computer.

After downloading the 700MB+ for the complete installation, I started the process to update Vista. Here is the process I went through, as well as what surprised me.

Vista SP1 Upgrade Update Solutions Problems Fixes 1General introduction here, nothing really interesting to note. Just clicked 'Next' and proceeded.

Vista SP1 Upgrade Update Solutions Problems Fixes 2Standard boiler plate licensing terms for the Vista SP1 upgrade. Does anyone read these entire things?

Vista SP1 Upgrade Update Solutions Problems Fixes 3Final necessary information. Good to know information, especially the automatic reboots. Remember to save any open items.

Vista SP1 Upgrade Update Solutions Problems Fixes 4Wow! This update may take one hour or more? Even on this desktop. What is this Windows NT 4.0 SP6a or 7? Probably the most surprising thing that any update would take this long. Especially since my Windows Vista experience on this machine is in the mid 4's range.

What was the total time my machine took? One hour, eight minutes with a couple of reboots. If you do not have a Windows experience rating of 4 our higher, be warned that it could take much, much longer -- days? To me, an update this large and time consuming is unacceptable. It takes less time to initially setup Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate than it does to update it to Service Pack 1.

At least I did not encounter any major issues with the update. This is in fact the most important thing about any Microsoft Service Pack. In the tens of thousands that I have been involved with applying to desktops and servers alike -- it is nice to not worry about applying an upgrade. To have a certain level of trust to apply upgrades within a month of their release is a real step forward. A backhanded compliment yes, but true none the less. I remember a time when you held your breath with every machine that had a Microsoft Operating System Service Pack on it -- remember Service Pack 6 for Windows NT anyone? It has gotten progressively better, and has established more trust. While the bloated size and length of time to install is a nuisance, it is far better than being subjected to rebuiding a machine from scratch.

Still, as with any major update -- backup your critical files before proceeding.

On the other hand, I have noticed zero changes in terms of performance or benefits from the fixes offered in Windows Vista Service Pack 1. I do have few minor issues in Vista with remote printing and Remote Desktop (RDP) that I will retest over the next couple of days.

What's in Microsoft Windows Vista Service Pack 1? Here are the links that have information about Microsoft Windows Vista SP1:

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Winning Las Vegas Weekend!

This past weekend Ashley and I got away for a couple of days to Las Vegas. Ashley is still there for a Lawson conference, but we took the weekend to relax a little away from home. The first question I always get when someone hears that I was Las Vegas, is – did you win anything gambling? The answer this time is yes, but more on that later.

We left late on Friday evening – our plane took off from LAX at 10:45pm. We would have preferred to leave a little earlier, but United’s previous flight left before 5:00pm. That was too early for us to head on out. I always forget how short the flight to Las Vegas is. 44 minutes on the way out, 39 minutes on the way back. Barely enough time to get to the cruising altitude.

The taxi line took about 20 minutes for us to get through. I thought that was a little long for midnight, although I have seen it longer in more traditional rush hours. We jumped in a taxi – actually a Durango and the driver was a chatty fellow. He had a heavy foot and remarked during the drive – I only have a quarter tank left – I do not know if I can make it through my shift. Ashley and I looked at each other and smiled. Then the driver revealed that he did not normally drive the Durango, but rather a mini-van. I mentioned something along the lines of – that V8 will get you every time.

And just a few minutes later we arrived at our hotel for the weekend, the Las Vegas Hilton. While not our favorite hotel (we have enjoyed Bellagio, Wynn, and Ashley is enjoying Palazzo now) in Las Vegas, the LV Hilton did comp our room for the weekend. Everyone knows how I cannot resist free – so the Las Vegas Hilton it was.

The free room was ok – nothing to write home or complain about. It was the lesser side of what could be a two room suite – and although there were a couple of leather couches and a wide screen plasma television, the bed was a fold-down hideaway – a little bit of a bummer. Still, it is hard to complain about free when you’re in Las Vegas these days; I guess I just need to gamble more. :-)

We were hoping that the great weather during the week – touching in the 80’s would hold throughout the weekend, and we got just of touch of it on Saturday morning. After enjoying our free overkill buffet breakfast, it was just warm enough for us to spend some time by the pool before the breeze before.

Then we headed out to visit several shopping locations, and finally ended up at the Palazzo – the Venetian’s bigger brother on the strip. Our main reason to stop there was to try out the latest Grand Lux Café for lunch – by the Cheesecake Factory, of which Ashley works at their corporate offices.

After arriving back to the Las Vegas Hilton I considered the possibility betting on the various NCAA basketball game conference championships like the PAC-10 and ACC tournaments. Then I found the game I was going to play, the slot machines – the Monopoly slot machines.

While my preference is to sit in a poker room or step up to a 3 Card Poker table game on the floor, I usually do not play these games when I am in Las Vegas with Ashley. Mainly because she does play or enjoy these table games – or watching for that matter – who can blame her? So, in terms of something we both play – it is usually down to the Slot Machines.

Traditionally, I have been very partial to the Wheel of Fortune Slot Machines in Las Vegas. I have done pretty well on them in the past, and I like some level of interactivity outside of putting in money, hitting a button and seeing what comes up. The extra spin on the wheel as a multiplier made the slot machine game more fun.

But the Monopoly game I picked even had more interactivity. The funniest part is that it is considered a “penny slot machine” – but by the time you play all 25 lines, and bet the maximum per line to get in the progressive bonus – it is $2 a play, actually more expensive than a quarter’s slot machine game. (Ashley still played 25 lines at $.01 per bet, so $.25 per play for her)

Here is a screen shot of a similar type game:

Monopoly Slot Machine Game in the Las Vegas Hilton
I happened to pick a “good” slot machine. Good in that, over the next day or so in a couple of different playing sessions – I won multiple $200-300 jackpots in the extra interactive games that were available. At the end of the weekend, I was up just over $400 playing “penny slots”. As they say, gambling is a lot more fun when you are winning.

We also had other fun the rest of the weekend – taking the chance to finally see Danny Gans at the Mirage – they guy is pretty amazing. We also ended up seeing the Mystere show at Treasure Island as well, which is a classical Cirque du Soleil. Since it has been in Las Vegas about 15 years, we figured it was time we saw that.

On Monday morning, when I flew home Ashley headed over to the Palazzo for here stay there. It was a relatively relaxing weekend with a lot of fun. And, after Ashley’s experience at Palazzo, that is where we will consider staying next time, even if the Las Vegas Hilton is free.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gray Market Lenses for Canon EOS Cameras

What would you do if you received a “gray market” or “Japanese” version lens when you were left with the impression that it was a genuine USA lens? Would it matter if you spent more on the lens because you were led to believe the lens was a genuine USA model?

This is an issue that I recently encountered and it was both an educational and learning experience for me. This is not only a gray market story, but also an eBay story – of which the outcome is still pending.

Before we get started, let us define what a gray market lens is. According to Tamron (the manufacturer of lenses for Canon cameras) here is the deal with gray market lenses:

In looking for our products, you may find that products not supplied through our regular channel are sold in your market. Such products are generally called “gray-market products” and may involve quality problems.

Interchangeable lenses are precision optical and mechanical products. Therefore, if handling during transportation or storage is not adequate, defects or malfunctions may occur. As for our products supplied through our regular distribution channel, meticulous care is taken in transportation and storage in order to ensure quality protection. However, in the case of gray-market products, it is more likely that they are handled inadequately during transportation or storage; are exposed to undesirable conditions such as high temperatures, vibration, shock, high humidity, dust, dirt and so on; or that they have been mixed up with used products since they are not under our strict control. Therefore, we are unable to warrant the quality of gray-market products.
The reality of the statement is that in most cases the gray market lenses are of the same quality and reliability as their genuine USA counterparts. However, since there is no way to guarantee this – they are not covered by warranties since their authenticity cannot be determined. In addition, these lenses have a significantly lower resale value (~25%) than their genuine counterparts for the same reason, even though most warranties are not transferable in the first place.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I bid on and won a Tamron SP AF17-50mm f/2.8 XR Aspherical lens on eBay. The lens was used, but was in mint condition and a genuine USA product. I placed my bid for what I thought was a reasonable savings over whether I had purchased the lens new from B&H or Amazon.com. Fortunately, I won the lens well within the price I was looking to pay and the items was delivered very quickly to me.

When I opened the box, I was immediately concerned that the lens was not a genuine USA lens. Why? Because all of the pamphlets, manuals, and other documentation were written only in the Japanese language. There was one small foldout that had a couple of sentences of English in it – and that was it. Two other telling signs, there was a multi-layer “receipt” in the box with Japanese writing on it and the US UPC code and information on the bottom of the box was covered with another sticker that had additional information on it.

However, since I was not positive, I hooked the lens up to my Canon EOS Rebel XTi 400D and snapped some quick photos. The lens worked great, and the clarity of the photos taken with the new lens were far superior to the kit lens, the EF-S 18-55mm lens that the Rebel XTi ships with.

Still, I had to contact the seller to see if they knew that the item they sold was a gray market lens rather than the genuine USA one. After a quick reply, the seller suggested I check with Tamron to verify the authenticity. Even though the lens came from “Preferred Photo” a well-known grey marketer and seller of imported products – the seller was not willing to discuss options until I received word from Tamron.

The next morning, I placed a call to Tamron. I spent about 5 minutes on the phone with the agent providing information and asking a number of questions. At the end of the call, the agent responded with – the serial number is not in our system, and based on the rest of the information – you have a “gray market” lens. Now it was time to go back to the seller.

While I was willing to put several different options on the table, the seller was not. The seller felt it was fine to mislead buyers since the lens worked well – regardless of the authenticity or the lowered resale value. For me personally, I could not advertise a lens as genuine USA that was not for a couple of reasons – one, it is dishonest and two, I would expect a reasonable buyer to return the lens.

At that point, I requested that I return the lens under the 7 day money back guarantee that the item was posted under. The seller has resisted, but should not be able to step around the clarity of the return policy. I will update on how that goes as it is currently in the PayPal “dispute” statue.

Now I will need to scour the market to find the best price on a genuine USA lens from B&H Photo or Amazon.com.

To summarize and answer my own questions:
What would you do if you received a “gray market” or “Japanese” version lens when you were left with the impression that it was a genuine USA lens?
I would return it.

Would it matter if you spent more on the lens because you were led to believe the lens was a genuine USA model?
Yes, especially since at some point I plan to resell the lens.

More importantly, what would you do? Let me know with a comment below.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Audi A4 2.0T 25,000 Mile Update

Jiffy Lube and other oil change vendors recommend changing your oil every 3,000 miles. My dad (who worked for Getty Oil & Texaco) always told me that anything less 5,000 miles was unnecessary. Audi recommends this service only every 10,000 miles or after a first service at 5,000 miles. Which brings me to the topic of this post, the 25,000 mile update on my Audi A4 2.0T.

On Monday, I dropped off my car at Rusnak Audi in Thousand Oaks for the service that was due. I make sure to mention that I do have a “chip” or ECU upgrade on my Audi A4 just in case the notice anything abnormal. It helps that Rusnak and Neuspeed have an excellent working relationship. My service advisor mentions that there is a ECU upgrade from Audi, so I may need to have the software re-installed at Neuspeed (no charge) if it happens to wipe it out. The only other major item done at 25,000 is replacing the brake fluid.

A few hours later, I get a call that my car was ready and by the way we had to replace a valve, under warranty. Immediately I was concerned – just a couple of months ago (link here) my turbo bypass valve had to be replaced, which I possibly attributed to the additional boost coming from the ECU upgrade.

Fortunately, the valve issue was quite different – something that my service advisor mentioned was more common on these A4 2.0T’s. Basically, the crankcase breather valve had to be replaced along with the associated gasket – as a whistling noise was detected from the engine during the test drive. Here is the text from the service receipt:

“Whistle type noise coming from engine. Crankcase breather valve sticking. Causing excessive crankcase vacuum and oil leaking from filler cap. Perform GFF. Replace crankcase breather valve.”

When I read this, I realized that when I had the previous problem, I noticed some oil on the top of the engine. So, most likely this was an issue when my turbo bypass valve went causing the check engine light to come on. So it is possible, that this has been an issue for the last 5,000 miles or so.

Let’s just say at this point that I am glad this car is a lease car. And, if I end with a 2009 A4 or S4 model when this lease is up – no question I will get the extended warranty should I decide to purchase it.

Would I have had the problems without the chip? I am not sure, but it seems like the crankcase breather valve is more common than it should be according to Audi.

On all other fronts the car is dong very well. The most exciting part is that I still have over 30% left on the tires. Which, according to Brian – he’s surprised that with the way I drive I did not burn through these higher performance tires in 20,000 miles. It looks like I can make it to the end of the lease without needing to replace them. Exciting!

While I was not able to capture the details about the version upgrade for my engine management system on the A4, I can tell that it did not wipe out the Neuspeed ECU programming. The same power is still there in addition to whatever else Audi decided to add in. I may give Neuspeed a call to see if they want to flash it again – just in case parts of the program need to be adjusted. completely remove the ECU (chipped) programming from my Audi A4. I do need to call Neuspeed and get the programming updated.

But other than the 2nd valve problem in 10,000 miles – the Audi A4 2.0T still looks and runs great. That should not be news, that is what you expect from it just 25,000 miles into the car’s life.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Would this dog swallow a Ziploc Bag?

You bet he would. And he did on Monday night. Fortunately, a trip to the veterinarian – a shot, some vomiting, and the bag came out before it went through his digestive system. That of course, could have been a disaster.

Luey the chocolate lab ate a plastic bag
Here is what happened:

At 4:05pm on Monday afternoon, I received a frantic call from Ashley asking if I could go home because our dog was out of the yard. In the 4.5 years we have had our Chocolate Labrador Retriever Luey, this was the first time he had gotten out of the yard while we were at work. Apparently our neighbors were trying to help get him back in the yard.

I ran out of work and jumped in my car to drive home as quickly as possible. I think one of the biggest fears that any dog owner has is that your dog will get out, end up on a busy street and possibly get hit. I was driving home at a reasonable pace to try and get him back into the yard.

About half the way home, Ashley called back and mentioned that the neighbors were able to get him back into the yard successfully. The only problem, right before they caught up to him – the dog grabbed a plastic Ziploc baggie and swallowed it whole. Really smart, but Luey is a Chocolate Lab and they do eat just about anything.

As most people know, plastic bags among other things can cause a blockage in the intestines of animals, including dogs. We placed a call into our veterinarian and they said we should bring Luey down as quickly as possible. Best to deal with it before his body tries to digest it – otherwise, it would mean surgery.

I loaded up Luey into the back of my car – he had absolutely no idea anything was wrong with him as he bounded around the backyard. It was the first time that he actually willing got into the back seat of my Audi A4, which was a surprise. Then we made the short drive to East / West Veterinarian in Thousand Oaks. (Karen Martin is an absolutely excellent Veterinarian)

Once we arrived, we hung out in the waiting room before they took Luey into one of the examination rooms and gave him a shot. Apparently the shot induces vomiting and nausea for approximately one hour. After a few minutes the tech came out and mentioned that we had success and Luey had expelled the plastic Ziploc baggie from his system. He just had to hang out for another 30 minutes for the nausea symptoms to pass.

30 minutes and $108 later, Luey was 100% again. They brought him out, and we headed home – no worse for the wear. In fact, I figured the Labrador would still be tired when we got home – no such luck, he was ready to play. However, we took it easy since he had a rough day.

This was our first “emergency” trip with our dog to the vet, hopefully for a long time. We were fortunate that he was able to get rid of the bag and we did not have to spend the next several days waiting for the bag to pass. Whew. Mr. Luey as I like to call him was lucky this time!

The real mystery remains, how did Luey get out? My best guess is that the night before when I was fertilizing the yard that I did not completely close the front gate. Perhaps then sometime yesterday with just a bump or a strong breeze in the early afternoon – the gate blew open. Otherwise it seems, he would have been out all day and I am sure we would have received a call much earlier. The only other options are far more nefarious and there is no reason to even consider them.

That possible problem was easy to solve – I put the lock back on the gate so that it has to be locked shut anytime he is there. Now I just need to remember to replace it with a combination lock so it is easier for family, neighbors, and the gardener.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Sample Photos: Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR LD Aspherical (IF) Lens

A new toy arrived in Saturday's mail yesterday. A new digital camera lens for my Canon EOS Rebel XTi 400D -- a pretty nice lens in fact. Although it is not an IS or image stabilization lens, it is definitely a big step up for me. The particular lens is the Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR LD Aspherical (IF) -- which has become a very popular lens among camera users.

The reasons for this?
- Great image quality
- Popular focal length range
- Good build quality, but light
- Excellent value and price

Taking the lens out of box, I wanted to take some sample shots at the f/2.8 aperture through the focal length to see the quality of the images the lens can produce with the Canon EOS Rebel XTi 400D. In just a couple of minutes, I am pretty impressed. Here are the sample shots:

1. Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR LD Aspherical (IF) @ Av w/ f/2.8 - 17mm focal length cropped to 1024x768 / 17mm / 3888 x 2592 / 4.82 MB / ISO-100 / F-stop f/2.8 / Exposure time 1/1000 second
Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR LD Aspherical (IF) @ Av w/ f/2.8 - 17mm focal length cropped to 1024x768 / 17mm / 3888 x 2592 / 4.82 MB / ISO-100 / F-stop f/2.8 / Exposure time 1/1000 second

2. Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR LD Aspherical (IF) @ Av w/ f/2.8 - 24mm focal length cropped to 1024x768 / 24mm / 3888 x 2592 / 4.23 MB / ISO-100 / F-stop f/2.8 / Exposure time 1/1000 second
Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR LD Aspherical (IF) @ Av w/ f/2.8 - 24mm focal length cropped to 1024x768 / 24mm / 3888 x 2592 / 4.23 MB / ISO-100 / F-stop f/2.8 / Exposure time 1/1000 second

3. Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR LD Aspherical (IF) @ Av w/ f/2.8 - 35mm focal length cropped to 1024x768 / 35mm / 3888 x 2592 / 3.74 MB / ISO-100 / F-stop f/2.8 / Exposure time 1/1000 second
Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR LD Aspherical (IF) @ Av w/ f/2.8 - 35mm focal length cropped to 1024x768 / 35mm / 3888 x 2592 / 3.74 MB / ISO-100 / F-stop f/2.8 / Exposure time 1/1000 second

4. Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR LD Aspherical (IF) @ Av w/ f/2.8 - 50mm focal length cropped to 1024x768 / 50mm / 3888 x 2592 / 3.27 MB / ISO-100 / F-stop f/2.8 / Exposure time 1/1000 second
Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR LD Aspherical (IF) @ Av w/ f/2.8 - 50mm focal length cropped to 1024x768 / 50mm / 3888 x 2592 / 3.27 MB / ISO-100 / F-stop f/2.8 / Exposure time 1/1000 second

Instantly, I was blown away by these pictures versus my Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II Lens. There is a little softness in the 17mm focal length that I was not too happy with, but I am attributing that to the aperture setting of f/2.8. However, at the 50mm range -- awesome picture. I cannot wait to take some more pictures with it rather than just messing around the house.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

London and Paris -- A Trip Recap

We're back from our vacation to London and Paris. Actually, we got back last Sunday -- it has taken me that long to do some writing and also go through the 1200 or so pictures that I took on the vacation. In fact, I still have a number of posts in draft form, but I wanted to at least get this little summary post up before too much time passes.

Let me start you off with a slide show of the some of the pictures we took:

In summary, we had a great time spending 4 days in London, England and then heading over to Paris, France for 4 full days before heading back to Los Angeles on the 5th day. Paris was expensive, but London was really expensive -- but, beyond that the weather is better than you can usually expect that time of year. In fact, we had several days of partly cloudy skies with sunshine and temperatures approach the high 50's!

Here is a quick recap on our trip. (Links will be filled in as I complete the posts)
February 23rd - Arrival in London, England
February 24th - Touring around London, WiFi connections
February 25th - Continue our touring
February 26th - Enjoy the weather, the London Eye, Paddington Station, and missing the Eurostar
February 27th - Late arrival, first day in Paris
February 28th - Visiting the D-Day beaches in Normandy
February 29th - Mussee d'Orsay, L'Open Tour, Night Cruise
March 1st - Try and fit everything in -- Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower
March 2nd - Eat breakfast, fly home

The hotels we stayed in:
The Trafalgar - Hilton Trafalgar Square
Hilton Arc de Triomphe

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Apple iPhone Will Not Charge -- At Least It Appears That Way!

My Blackberry 8800, which needs a good reboot once in awhile. However, until now -- Ashley's 8GB Apple iPhone has behaved well and until this post, had never required a reset. However, I am getting ahead of myself.

First it is important to realize that Ashley's iPhone has not been hacked or received a jailbreak -- boring, I know -- and is running version 1.1.3 of the Apple iPhone firmware. The iPhone device had been very dependable, only needing to be charged every few days to make sure it was available for use.

Then, the other day Ashley was greeted with the following icon on her iPhone:
Low battery on the Apple iPhone, the iPhone will not charge.Battery low on the Apple iPhone.

In the usual manner, we connected her Apple iPhone up to her computer to charge it overnight via the USB cable for charging and syncing. However, when we woke up in the more, the same image and the message "low batter" still appeared. Shrugging it off, we assumed that the USB cable must not have clicked in properly.

On our way into work, I used our car charger to attempt to charge the iPhone. After 20 minutes connected on our commute in -- there was no change in the charge level on the iPhone. I thought something might be seriously wrong, as Ashley's iPhone was not charging at all.

On a whim, and unfortunately based on my Windows experience -- I rebooted the Apple iPhone by using the reset button. After completing the restart, the phone showed as fully charged -- crazy.

What our assumption is that the Apple iPhone was really charging, however the metering software was not updating properly. Upon rebooting, whatever was frozen up appears to have adjust. So, if you run into this issue -- it is important to know that your Apple iPhone is really charging and you just need to perform a reset in order have the charging meter return to normal.

This appears to be an issue with the 1.1.3 version of the Apple iPhone firmware. As we look to update to version 1.1.4 in the next couple of days, we hope this problem does not occur again!

iPhone can't charge
iPhone won't charge
iPhone does not charge
iPhone doesn't charge

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Great Case for the Rebel XTi - the Canon 200EG Photo Backpack

As I continue to purchase a few accessories for my Canon EOS Rebel XTi 400D digital camera I will share what I buy and how it works for me. My latest purchase before our recent trip to Europe was a great digital camera carrying case. Actually, I ended up with the Canon Deluxe Photo Back Pack 200EG and I could not be any happier with it!

Canon Deluxe Photo Backpack 200EG for Canon EOS SLR Cameras
Canon Deluxe Photo Backpack 200EG for Canon EOS SLR Cameras

It is first important to note why I choose a backpack setup with the Canon 200EG for my Rebel XTi. I have never been a fan of over the shoulder bags, smaller cases, or hip type packs for cameras. I really like backpacks because the enable you to have your hands free, distribute the weight and they can carry a lot of stuff. For that reason I searched for a good backpack.

In the beginning, I had no idea that Canon made any backpack carrying cases for their cameras until I came across this one. At first, the $69.99 price scared me away before I checked Amazon.com. Amazon's $36.97 with free shipping and no sales tax made the decision a no-brainer, a serious no brainer.

The backpack is great -- it fits everything I could possibly need. The Rebel XTi, a couple of extra lenses, the Canon Powershot G7, and the Canon Powershot SD800IS. All with plenty of room for mini-tripods, extra memory, batteries, and chargers. And withing a fairly small package. There are even straps on the outside so you can attach a camera tripod to the case.

Here is how I had the Canon 200EG backpack for our recent trip to Europe:
My configuration of the Canon 200EG Photo Backpack with my Rebel XTi

As you can see, I could fit everything in there, plus there was still a ton of room to carry additional items around while we traveled. Since I returned, I just store all my equipment in the backpack so that anytime I need any cameras, I just grab the Canon 200EG backpack and I am ready to go.

As far as downsides on the backpack? Only a couple:

1. The Canon logo on the back does not remove very easily. While I appreciate that Canon makes the product, I really do not like advertising that there is potentially "expensive" equipment on my back -- possibly making me a target.

2. Canon should have included a few more velcro straps. I will be buying some additional strips at Staples, but it would have been nice to have one for each compartment, to make it easier to secure the equipment without needing to carry the boxes as protective material.

If you need a carrying case for your Canon EOS camera -- you should just buy the Canon 200EG Photo Backpack, especially if you can get it at the Amazon price. It is a great value.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Best Spot to Draft in Fantasy Baseball?

What is the best spot to draft in your Fantasy Baseball league? Common sense argues that it is always best to have the first pick in any kind of Fantasy draft. This is truly the only way you can get a shot a prime top-3 draft pick like Alex Rodriguez, Hanley Ramirez, or David Wright. It would make logical sense that this is the best place to start your assualt on your Fantasy Baseball league competitors.

Hold on. Wait a second. By taking a quick look at some of the data from Fantasy Baseball, you may reach some different conclusions. Could it possibly be better to pick later in the first round, rather than at the beginning? I will tell you my thoughts.

First though, a little bit of background. Our Fantasy Baseball league is hosted over at CBS Sportsline where it has been since 2001. There has been a core group of gentlemen (about 7 of us) that have participated throughout the years while a few others have come and gone. We have had 3 winners of titles in the 7 years, one gentleman 3 times, another twice, and myself once -- in 2006.

In all, the league has been a keeper league, however in the recent few years -- your keepers have to be from a draft round later than round 5 or from the waiver wire. Keepers can only be kept for one year. In our drafts, we do reverse order every other round so, the person that gets the 10th pick, also gets the 11th pick, etc.

Then the email came out Thursday announcing the random draft order for our league. I was a little annoyed because it was going to be the second year in a row and 3 out of the last 5 years that the "randomly weighted" draft put me at the bottom. At the same time, another owner who has consistently been in the bottom of the league complained about not having a top three pick.

I thought that comment was a little ludicrous in the fact that why should I fail to have the opportunity to draft Alex Rodriguez (he tends to be the first pick each year) for instance just because that owner fails to manage their team year-after-year. I threatened to have my roster illegal all year just so I could have the first pick next year.

The good news is that the email with the draft order was sent out in error and they were not the correct picks. The draft order will be updated in the next few days. However, I digress.

In our league, the last few years there has been a inverse relationship between the initial order in the draft and the outcome for the league. Here are the examples:

In 2003, the winner picked 10th in the draft.
In 2004, the winner picked 8th, 2nd place (me) picked 10th in the draft.
In 2005, the winner picked 9th in the draft.
In 2006, I won after I picked 6th in the draft.
In 2007, the winner picked 5th in the draft.

Amazingly, nobody with a top-4 pick won the draft -- what is that saying? It would seem there may be a few arguements that could be made.

1. The truly elite and CONSISTENT talent in Major League Baseball really falls off after the middle of the second round.
2. In fantasy baseball, it is more about having a "decent" draft day, and moving quickly on the waiver wire after the start of the season. Many players are not consistent from year to year so you need to find who is going to be hot -- and undrafted as early as possible.
3. There is a ton of luck involved with baseball, more than any other sport.

I tend to agree with points #1 and #2 in my experience from Fantasy Baseball. What is your experience? After thinking about this in detail here, I now have to think about what place I want to fall in the draft. In my opinion, 5th-7th in the draft would seem to be optimum. You still get that elite talent in the beginning of the draft and you are well positioned to adjust each round as you are in the middle of order -- no more than 10 picks from you next pick.

What do you think?

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

My Canon EOS Rebel XTi 400D Experience

Want to know all about my experience with my Canon EOS Rebel XTi 400D digital camera?

Well, then this is the post you need to bookmark and follow up on. The purpose of this post is very clear and concise – to organize all of my posts on my Rebel XTi in a single post categorized by subject. The other option was to make you rely solely on my tag cloud on the right and sort through all of the posts there. Not a good experience, especially if this is your first visit to my blog.

Rather than put you through that ordeal, below is the most current list of postings on my Rebel XTi. Anytime I add a new post, this page will be updated, giving you one place to come to get all the information and sample photos. How convenient!

In case you are wondering, I am an improving amateur (very) photographer that up until now has only taken photos with point and shoot cameras. While the list of digital cameras I have owned is long and extensive, they have practically all been Canon cameras, first the Powershot Digital Elph and SD line, then finally culminating in a purchase of the Powershot G7 – the closest thing you can get to a Digital SLR without buying one.

In fact, I own a total of three digital cameras currently, the Canon Powershot SD 800IS, the Canon Powershot G7, and finally the Canon Rebel XTi. The Canon Rebel XTi is the first SLR camera I have owned. With my initial experience with it, my eye is already wandering towards the Rebel XSi 450D.

Curious about items I have not covered? You can always ask, maybe I am already working on a post that covers it!

Purchasing the Canon EOS Rebel XTi 400D:
Replacing my Powershot G7 with a Rebel XTi 400D

Bought my Canon EOS Rebel XTi 400D...Finally


General experience and issues:
Canon EOS Rebel XTi 400D has arrived - first shots!
Dead Pixel Found on my Rebel XTi 400D's CCD - Argh!
Dead or Hot Pixel on my Rebel XTi? How to fix.
Gray Market Leness for Canon EOS Cameras

Accessories:
Canon 200EG Photo Backpack for Canon EOS cameras

Canon RC-1 Remote Controller for Canon EOS cameras
Body Armor Impact Protection for the Canon EOS Rebel XTi

Lenses for the Canon EOS Rebel XTi 400D


Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR LD Aspherical (IF) Lens:
Sample First Photos

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II Lens:
Lens Test Photos & Review
ISO Speed Comparison
Canon EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II USM Telephoto Lens:
Test Photos - Fully Automatic
Test Photos - Landscape Mode

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Outlook Fix: The Item Has Been Moved or Deleted

It seems that I have been bitten by a recent string of issues with Microsoft Outlook. This particular one has occurred for me for quite some time with my Outlook 2003 SP3 installation.

The issue? If I attempt to process several meeting invites in successive order from my inbox or another folder, I am greeted with the following error:

Outlook Error: The item has been moved or deleted."The item has been moved or deleted.

I have actualy received the error fairly frequently when trying to clear out meeting invites and email. Regardless of the type of invite, my response or where it falls in my inbox, I get the error.

What I have come to understand that the issue is due to the way my Outlook is configured with Exchange Cached mode. When replying to the first meeting invite (accept, decline, or tentative) the cached mode does not immediately update. Then if you attempt to process another meeting request before the Exchange cached mode updates itself, you receive the error.

How can you fix it? If you need to process several meeting requests quickly, simply hit the shift+f9 between messages to sync your inbox via Exchange cached mode and then process the next invite. You will no longer receive the "The item has been moved or deleted."

At least there is a good work around for it.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Getting listed in both Yahoo and the Open Directory - DMOZ

These two directory systems are killing me. Does anyone have some advice for getting a directory listing in either the Yahoo! directory or the DMOZ directory? At this point, I have been trying for almost a year to get listed in both, but with very little success through standard means. I have submitted a few applications over the last 12 months, yet nothing has happened.

Al least with Yahoo!, although I am hesitant, there is some recourse. With some funding, $295 to be exact, Yahoo! will guarantee that your site is reviewed within 30 days. However, it does not guarantee that you site will be listed, only reviewed. For that reason, I have been hesitant to spend any portion on the income from this site to guarantee that listing from Yahoo!

DMOZ (or effectively the Open Directory Project) is a little different. The DMOZ.org site is a directory that is used to power a lot of sites, and some sites like Google (which provides ~60% of the traffic to this site) give added to those sites that appear in the directory. However, getting listed is a pain.

While I refuse to believe the some of the initial posts I read a year ago accusing the DMOZ of corruption – the longer I struggle with getting a basic listing, the more I tend to believe them. Here’s why.

In addition to simply adding my site to the Open Directory Project, I thought it might be interesting if I also applied to be an editor of a category. The site advertises that they are always looking for qualified people to help make the directory better. Given my deep experience in the Internet, Directories, and E-commerce – I felt I was an ideal candidate for that.

So, per the instructions, I found a category that was a) not very large, and b) currently showed as having no editors on it. That way, but volunteering I could add immediate value to the directory. I quickly filled out the application pointing out my experience and waited to hear back.

Not more than a couple days later, I received the following perplexing response:

It was a form response that showed that no one clearly evaluated the application, just moved it through the process without paying attention. Why do I assume that? Because the response was in direct opposite to what I did. I applied to a very small category, and there was absolutely no editors (there still are not) for that category.

What gives? I speculate that the directory really is not open itself, or extremely poorly managed. Perhaps both are true in this case, but when an organization portrays itself as open and clearly operates in a model that is contrary to that – it is hypocrisy at its finest.

Then there is the whole aspect of trying to get your site listed in there. Not only did the directory experience an outage last year where it effectively lost thousand of requests for inclusion in the directory, but it also could not accept applications for several months. Then, once fixed – things were no better as applications are processed at a snails pace.

The Open Directory is an informational abyss where you cannot get a status, cannot contact anyone, nor do they provide you with any ideas as to what is happening. As with most people, you read the directions, follow them, submit your site and then hope that you have done it correctly in order to get listed if there is even an editor for the category. I have submitted my site a couple of different times to a few categories over the past year with no results.

What a disaster. How again do other major directories consider DMOZ highly and give it any weight? It just does not make sense.

Have you had a better experience or do you have any advice for me?

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Trafalgar – Hilton’s Trafalgar Square Hotel

We really struggled over our decision to stay at “The Trafalgar” – a highly modernized Hilton hotel in Trafalgar Square that does not highly publicize its Hilton Brand. The reviews were somewhat mixed and there were several other more traditional Hiltons just a couple miles away. In the end, we selected it for the price / value ratio (we were staying free on HHonors points) and the centralized location that it enjoys to many of the major sites of London.

Our room faced towards Trafalgar Square in London from the Hilton HotelOur room is in the picture above pointed out with the red arrow.

The welcome was just as we expected per the reviews that we read on TripAdvisor (link). The hotel was hard to recognize (although I driver knew it well) and the only marking on the building showed “The Trafalgar” in small black letters over the door. Other than that marking, you could not tell it was a hotel.
Once entering, it is similarly confusing. As you come up stairs you enter a bar, with a concierge desk (although not identified as such). In the bar, there are a couple of turntables where the DJ spins tracks during the evening. Off in the corned to the left, there are four workstations facing each other where the hotel staff is at. It is not a front desk experience per say, but if you know what you are looking for – it is easy.

I believe that the modern design and layout actually significantly takes away from the charm of this hotel and believe it would be more successful in a traditional format and offerings. But, who am I to say such things – it is not like I own a hotel chain or anything.

At check-in, we received a complimentary upgrade to room #203, which has to be one of the best of the hotel. The view to Trafalgar Square is hard to beat. The only frustrating part is that when I arrived in my room, I realized I did not receive free complimentary breakfast coupons. I called down to the desk and they advised me that Diamond members are entitled to an upgraded room, complimentary breakfast, or complimentary drinks. The only rub here is that I was not asked which I preferred at check-in. Our preference is clearly for the room and the view, so I did not ask to be moved. It would have been nice to be asked or know that the others were an option.

The view from our room into Trafalfar Square in London, England at the Hilton Trafalgar
The point above is contrary to many reviews I have read. Other reviews have stated that no complimentary breakfast is available, which is not true for Hilton HHonors Diamond members. You can avoid the ₤15.50 ($30 US) per person breakfast charge if that is your choice. Just make sure to declare that at the check-in time to receive your preference. If not, as with us – there are several relatively reasonable cafés in the area, including the ever preset Pret A Manger, a chain where you can get bread items, fruit, and an assortment of coffees for under ₤10 for two in the morning.

The location of the Trafalgar Hotel is tough to beat. We were able to access Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, the Theatre District / TKTS, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the Westminster Abbey with very little walking effort. If you enjoy walking about, plus being located in the same square as the British National Gallery, you will love the centralized location. Plus “The Original Tour” office for the bus tour is right around the corner.

In terms of the staff, they were generally excellent for us. Courteous, helpful, and quick to respond to needs or questions that we have. We even received a nice plate of fruit and sparkling water on our first evening in the hotel. On the night we realized we missed our Eurostar train from London to Paris, we got great attention from both staff and the concierge to get us back on track again. They went out of their way to help solve our problem and that was greatly appreciated and rewarded with tips.

The other notion that I would like to dispel from the reviews that I have read is that the drinks offered are overly expensive. While they are definitely not cheap, they are not out of line with other offerings in London. While by United States standards, $10-12 drinks may look expensive, you would be hard pressed to find a much better value in London outside of the pub scene.

The only real problem that we experienced was the noise level in our room. Trafalgar Square is definitely one of the busiest intersections in all of London. There are multiple bus stops, many of them right outside of the hotel. It’s a happening place, and it should be expected. In our first room #203, which may perhaps be the room with the best view in the hotel – had two windows, both facing towards the square that let a lot of the noise in.

While I am usually a sound sleeper, the frequent sounds of buses, traffic, and police sirens woke me up on several occasions over the three nights we stayed there. I used earplugs successfully on our last night in #203 and slept the best during that stay. On our fourth and unexpected night we were in room #403, which only had one window. The noise was greatly reduced, and with just the fan running in the room – I had no problems sleeping.

With being said, if you are a light sleeper and even a moderate to heavy sleeper – and you value your rest more than the view, then I recommend avoiding rooms #103, #203, and #303. They would be the rooms with the highest noise exposure to Trafalgar Square given the noise levels.

The other item worth mentioning is that Internet price is outrageous here ₤15/day ($30 US) or ₤75/week ($150). More on Internet access in London here

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