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Monday, January 18, 2010

New HD Video: Upgrade Hard Drive on PS3

Quick post today, but I made video from my popular post on how to upgrade the hard drive on your Sony PlayStation 3. It also works great if you are just replacing the hard drive as well.



If you're looking for the full article, including the original text and pictures, please go here: How To: Upgrade / Replace Your PS3 Hard Drive (Sony PlayStation 3)

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Powerline Networking Tutorial & Speed Test Using the Linksys PLK300

When I recently picked up our new Sony LCD 52" Bravia TV (link to Amazon) not only was the picture improvement tremendous, but there is an Internet connection for the television that allows access to Yahoo! Widgets, YouTube, and other basic Internet connectivity. While I was disappointed in the fact that it did not include a built-in Wireless via 802.11G or RangeMax N -- I was forced to confront a growing issue in my home Entertainment system -- the need for several wired connections.

Previously, with my Sony Playstation 3and Nintendo Wii the problem was not so bad -- since both support wireless Internet connectivity. But take the new Sony 52" LCD, and in the Sony Blu-Ray player and the emerging connectivity for Sony ES receivers and you have a major need for connectivity.

The way I looked at it was that I had a couple of options:

1. I could mess with the wiring in my house (which has CAT-5E run through it) and install some wiring between the room where my Verizon FiOS connection terminates and my family room, add in a new switch and hook all the wired devices up.

2. I could install a wireless bridge to extend the wireless network into the Entertainment system and hook up the various components to the wireless bridge.

3. I could dive into the world of Powerline networking, where just by using a simple outlet, I could with the newer technology reach speeds up to 200Mbps -- of course, under the right conditions.

After thinking hard about #2, I ran into a number of articles suggesting that the Sony KDL-52Z5100 television experienced numerous issues with various types of bridges. The recommendation from a few folks on Amazon.com seemed to be to use the Powerline equipment and folks seemed to have pretty good luck with the Linksys PLK300 Powerline AV Ethernet Adapter Kit.

After continuing to research the Powerline option, and due to a great deal on Amazon.com, I settled on the Linksys by Cisco PLK300 as the Powerline AV Kit of choice. For about $140, the cheapest around I got both a single port Powerline AV Adapter and a four-port Powerline AV Adapter, which was exactly needed. Throw in my Amazon Prime Free Trial and 2-day shipping free and I was sold.

If you're interested, I published a video on the setup and the performance of the video on YouTube, here it is. Feel free to keep on reading if you don't have the chance to watch as I'll cover several of the same topics.



Upon the Linksys by Cisco PLK3000 unit showing up at my house, everything I expected was inside. Two Powerline AV adapters, two power cords, and two RJ-45 Ethernet cables. I was ready to go.

The first step was to plug in the first adapater that would be connected to my gigabit switch in my office where the Verizon FiOS router terminates. No issues there, I plugged it directly into the wall (as recommended) and the switch.

I then went to plug in the device in my Home Entertainment Center. What I quickly realized that the 3-foot power cord that is provided is going to be too short for most people. It was for me, so I needed to come up with an alternate placement of the devices. Once I figured out where the next best place was for placement, I plugged it in and the good news was that I had instant connectivity.

I did not have to push any buttons, do any configurations, just plug and play and the adapter was working and providing direct connectivity to my PlayStation 3 device. In this case, Linksys gets high marks for the PLK300 (which is a bundle of the PLE300 and the PLK300) for easy of setup and first use.

Now was time for a real test -- how would the the Powerline AV Network perform? How close would I get to the 200Mbps?

At this point, I booted my Sony Playstation 3 up into the Ubuntu Linux mode so that I could establish network connectivity and test out a file copy of a large file (200MB or so) between my Network Attached Storage Device (D-Link DNS-323, which is awesome!) and the PS3 to see what kind of performance I would get. I started the copying and the results were less than impressive -- 2.1MBps, which roughly translates to 17Mbps, far short of the 200Mbps potential...of course based on the conditions of the wiring, distance, and electrical interference.

After reading the reviews, I was expecting to get somewhere between 30Mbps and 70Mbps, so only achieving 17Mbps was very disappointing. My home is relatively new constructions, so the age of the wiring is likely the least limiting here. Still, when comparing with wireless to the same location, I was actually receiving almost double as the Wireless G connection. In that regards, I was happy that I was able to achieve better rates.

Satisfied with the overall improvement, but not the overall performance, I decided to see if there were any advanced settings I could possibly reach knowing that forcing devices to 100-Full vs. Auto-detect can make big differences in certain conditions. I also wanted to check to see if there were any firmware of other upgrades available that could possibly filter out noise or give performance enhancements.

To make a long story short here, Linksys does not support these devices very well. Meaning, there's no utility that works (there is a Utility for the 200 series that is not compatible) and there have been no firmware upgrades since November of 2008 that are post on the site. There is also no advanced way to connect to the devices to tweak the settings which overall is a pretty big bummer.

Let with no options in terms of configuration, my only choices were to move the devices between power outlets to see what kind of differences they could make. Really, I approached it two ways:

1. Trying out through a power strip with cleaner power. It worked fine (although not recommended by Linksys, but the performance drops to roughly half of what it was previous. Generally, not a desired outcome.

2. I went ahead and tried out a plethora of different outlets between the two rooms. Not much to report here other than the end result is that my top end file movement speed was at roughly 2.1MBps, which appears to be the top end available.

In the end, the overall review on the Linksys PLK300 Powerline AV Network is really a mediocre one. Linksys gets extremely high marks for plug-and-play with a successful ease of setup. However, in terms of performance, advanced configuration, and overall support it's pretty poor. There for, that leaves me in the middle of the review. The good news is that it works just good enough for me to keep it, although I briefly concerned it when I saw the surprisingly low performance.

If you need to establish connectivity between a non-wireless device or a hard to reach wireless location -- the PLK300 is a great solution -- as long as you do not have to worry about speed.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Fixed! VMWare Stop 0x0000007B 0xFFFFFA60005AF9D0 with Image Converter (0x7b)

I recently decided that I needed to have a few less computers sitting around my home. Not counting the three laptops we have, there were a total of 4 personal computers plus a network area storage (NAS) device to store all of the common files. That makes 5. Throw in the two Sony Playstation 3's (PS3) configured to run Ubuntu Linux and that puts the count at 10. Completely unneccesary for a household of two.

The easiest place for me to start with a "consolidation" what two Dell machines I have. One running Microsoft Windows 2008 Server, and the other running Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate. The Microsoft Windows Vista Machine, a Dell E520 running a dual core, 4GB RAM system was a great candidate to be consolidated into the Dell server running a quad core and 8GB RAM. The machine is already running VMWare Server 2.0.2, and I had several Virtual Machines including a Windows XP machine I had retired a little over a year ago. The question was how could I do it easily without a major problem.

The first answer I decided to try was using Microsoft's Complete PC Backup feature built into Windows Vista where you basically create Virtual PC images of your hard drives that can then be restored onto another machine. The only downfall is that to truly to a full PC (and include hidden or recovery partitions) you really have to use the CD/DVD backup and at 6 DVDs, is a little laborious. Once in the VMWare Virtual Machine, it appeared to be going very well. However, towards the end I hit a major snag with DVD #5 continually hit read errors. It was time to try another path.

I then decided to try out WinImage, a software that is a free, fully functional trial for 30 days to try and create an image. It seemed to go well with the exception of a couple of problems. The first issue was that it seemed to need to create the full size of the physical drive on the initial image. For example, I had a 250GB hard drive, but there was only 50GB used across both partitions. Rather than copying the minimal size of the drive, WinImage by default even with the dynamically expanding disk selected -- needed to create it at the full 232GB size. Very difficult if the drive you are creating the image on as the destination is not larger than the source.

Once I completed the effort, I transferred the 232GB image (thank goodness for Gigabit connectivity) and started up the VMWare image of Windows Vista. Within the first few seconds I got the message:

Stop: 0x0000007B 0xFFFFFA60005AF9D0 - 0x7b
Usually, anything starting with 0x0x0000007B has to do with an INACCESSIBLE BOOT DEVICE; something to do with the hard drive configuration between IDE / SCSI or otherwise, especially when using VMWare and Virtualization. I had seen this in the past, but interestingly this time error message did not specifically mention an inaccessible boot device.

I made a second pass with a slightly different hard drive configuration, and no luck.

As you might imaging, one gets pretty frustrated at this point. After searching Google, I came across a post which mentioned VMWare's Converter tool which is specifically for taking an existing maching and converting it to an Virtual Machine without all the problem that I was likely going to have on startup with the Windows Complete PC Backup and WinImage issues. This was one of those V-8 commerical times, where I felt like hitting myself on the forehead and exclaiming, "I could of had a V-8." How did I not know this free tool was available from VMWare? Regardless, it was time to move on to a tool that was meant for this job.

Fast forward ahead 90 minutes. I successfully installed the VMWare Converter tool on my host Vista Ultimate x64 system and created the image. I transferred the much smaller 40GB image over to my VMWare Server 2.0.2 and fired it up...
Stop: 0x0000007B 0xFFFFFA60005AF9D0 - 0x7b
Ugh, now I was really getting frustrated. Time to return to the research bin. After a lot of research, I centered on three key issues that could cause this potential problem -- and here are the steps that I took in order to fix them.

1. The ATI 256MB Video Card drivers that were installed (X1300) can cause these types of problems.

2. The Sigmatel HD Audio drivers that were installed can cause these types of problems.

3. The Disk type (commonly known with inaccessible boot device) can cause these kinds of error.

Here's what I did in order to make another pass:

1. Uninstalled the all video drivers and the ATI software.
2. Uninstalled all sound drivers and the Sigmatel Audio software.
3. In the VMWare Converter job task, rather than choosing the "Preserve Source" or the "IDE" -- I choose the "SCSI LSI Logic" .

I ran the job again and 90 minutes later, the VMWare Server virtual machine powered up without any hardware related issues. I did experience some networking issues, but those were due to the Windows Firewall (which I documented here) and not the image creation and conversion process.

If you are struggling with the Windows Vista Error Stop: 0x0000007B 0xFFFFFA60005AF9D0, here are the settings I used for the entire VMWare Image Converter:

Fixed! VMWare Stop 0x0000007B 0xFFFFFA60005AF9D0 with Image Converter

Hopefully, this works for you in solving your potential inaccessible boot device issues with VMWare. If so, please let me know with a Twitter mention @SomeLifeBlog, a Facebook link, or a comment below.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

How To: Clean The Camera Lens on Your Blackberry (Video: Bold, Storm, Tour, Pearl, Curve, and 8800)

Recently, the Camera on my Blackberry Bold 9000 Smartphone was not taking great pictures any more. There were a little more fuzzy and less clear than previously. Upon inspection of the viewfinder, lens, and CCD sensor on the camera, I noticed it was pretty dirty. I needed to give it a good cleaning in order to take some decent pictures again.

This guide will walk you through a quick tutorial on how you can clean lens / CCD sensor and viewfinder on the Blackberry device.

This guide and tutorial is available in both a video and text form. The video is below along with the supporting text on the steps to take and is compatible with the Blackberry series of devices and smartphones that include the Blackberry Bold, Pearl, Tour, Storm and Curve lines among others.

Before getting started there are 3 things that you need:

1. You Blackberry Device, Blackberry Bold 9000 in my case. (9700 from AT&T, T-Mobile)

2. Can of compressed air, link to Amazon if you need some.

3. Microfiber / lens cleaning cloth, link to Amazon if you need one.

Here is the video:


Here are the actual steps to take:

1. Power off your Blackberry.

2. Spray the viewfind and the lens / CCD senor and the area surrounding it on your Blackberry to dislodge and clean out any dirt or debris from the camera. Hold the can of air 6-8 inches from the Blackberry.

2. Prepare the isopropyl alcohol or lens cleaning solutions by pouring a little bit into the cap, just enough to wet the Q-Tip.

3. Either use lens cleaning solution, or light blow on the camera and viewfinder to create a little moisture.

4. Use the microfiber cleaning cloth to wipe and clean both the camera and the viewfinder of any final debris.

5. Turn the Blackberry back on. Congratulations, your camera should work again and take great pictures on your Blackberry device whether it is the Bold, Tour, Pearl, or Curve!

How To: Clean The Camera Lens on Your Blackberry (Video: Bold, Storm, Tour, Pearl, Curve, and 8800)

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Fixed! Can't Ping Vista / Windows 7 Machine by IP Address or Name

Having problems pinging a Microsoft Windows Vista Machine (or Windows 7) from another computer whether it is Windows XP, Windows 2008 Server, or Mac OS X? This is apparently a fairly common issues when working with Windows Vista or Windows 7 and frankly there is not a lot of good information out there about the problem.

The reason I know this is that I spent about two hours trying to solve this problem myself recently when I transferred my Windows Vista Ultimate machine to a VMWare image (post is pending on the experience) where at some point during the process my Windows Vista system become unpingable by any of the machines on my home network. By not pingable, the Vista installation COULD ping itself, could ping other machines, and could even initiate connections like RDP (Remote Desktop) and file sharing to other machines.

The problem? Other machines could not connect back. In fact, directly, I could not ping the microsoft windows vista machine by either IP address, netbios name, or dns name.

You might instantly think in that case that well, you must have a firewall or possible even Windows Firewall running on that PC and that's the computer. If only it was so simple. In fact, in this case the Windows Firewall service was completely turned off, disabled at startup and not even running. Furthermore, the machine had been working flawlessly before I had to do some tweaks to make it ready for imaging. What made it more frustrating was undoing those tweaks did not solve the problem -- which meant I needed to find a different root cause.

After scouring the Internet for help in this area; I must have hit visited well over a hundred web pages -- each of which only had pieces of information, linked to another site and in the end was somewhat unfruitful. Only the combination of these sites with bits and pieces of information led me to find a slightly different tweak on the situation that indeed fixed my issue.

This post will take you through all of the various things I looked at, learned, and eventually used to fix my problem. If you're experiencing the issue where you cannot ping Windows Vista or Windows 7 by name or ip address from another machine, I hope somewhere here you can find a piece of info that will help you out.

Best of luck! As you might guess, either a single one of these items, or perhaps all of them may be the root cause of what you're experiencing in not being able to ping.

The first place we want to start with your network connections dialog box; and specifically the network and sharing center.

Some of the key things to look at here are to make sure (assuming you are) that you are set to a private network and you have full connectivity.  Then, from there the Network Discovery, File sharing, and Printer sharing at a minimum should be turned on.  Both the Public folder sharing and the Media sharing items are optional for the problem we are trying to solve here where you cannot ping Vista machine by ip address or by name.

Some of the key things to look at here are to make sure (assuming you are) that you are set to a private network and you have full connectivity. Then, from there the Network Discovery, File sharing, and Printer sharing at a minimum should be turned on. Both the Public folder sharing and the Media sharing items are optional for the problem we are trying to solve here where you cannot ping Vista machine by ip address or by name.

If you need to make changes to mimic this configuration, go ahead and make them, reboot and test. If you still cannot ping the Windows 7 machine by IP or by name (Vista as well), the let's move to the next step.

The next place to look once you are buttoned up on the services you are running is the actual properties of the network connections that you have. The first note here is that if you have multiple networks or multiple cards; I would recommend disabling the ones not on the network IP address that you are troubleshooting to eliminate sources of possible secondary issues.

Here is how the properties on my network card looked after the machines was again pingable by name and IP again.

The problem?  Other machines could not connect back.  In fact, directly, I could not ping the microsoft windows vista machine by either IP address, netbios name, or dns name.
Here's the rationale:

1. Client for Microsoft Networks is an absolute must in order to be able to share files and printers between various machines in basic Windows networking. Make sure that's checked.

2. The Virtual Machine Network Services if not installed properly can be a source of networking issues. While this was not my issue in the end, it was best to eliminate it early on as one of the variables in the ping saga.

3. QoS Packet Scheduler. While not leveraged in my installation no information pointed to is a potential source, so I left it checked.

4. File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks. A must if you want to be able to share files between machines and either share a printer or access a shared printer on another machine.

5. Internet Protocol Version 6 (TCP/IPv6) as know just as IPv6. This protocol has had some strange behaviors with other machines and some network devices. If you are not explicitly using IPv6, best to disable it, especially in a mixed network as a troubleshooting step. There are a number of documented cases where simply disabling this driver solved the issue.

6. Link-Layer Topology Discovery Mapper I/O Driver. Some posts point to this as well as the next protocol being necessary for file sharing and more. In my case, I disabled it as a way to remove complexity. If yours is disabled by default, I would enable it as a test.

7. Link-Layer Topology Discovery Responder. Same case as with 6, recommendation is the same.

As it actually turns out, while several of those items solved MOST of the problems that people had with this issue...it did not solve mine. Only after reading a few articles did I turn my focus to the Windows Firewall.

The first thing, if you are running the Windows Firewall; I recommend turning it off just to test. If that fixes the pinging problem, then you may need to make a new rule for your firewall to enable ping and ICMP requests. There are a number of good guides out there; so I am not going to cover that.

However, if you are still having issues...time to turn to the Windows Firewall.

Now first my point of view with Windows Firewall: I hate it.

I hate the fact that after random Microsoft Updates, it gets reenabled without my permission and creates all kinds of problems. I hate the performance premium it puts on your system. And in the end, I don't need it on an internal network, since I have a firewall in front of it.

As you might imagine, I went pretty far to make sure the Windows Firewall Service did not start up or run. Inside of Computer Management and the Services area, I disabled the service by changing the startup mode to disabled and I even put in a fake password into the logon tab so it could not start up.

I decided to try and turn back on the service. Except, I first needed to re-enable the service. I clicked first went to the service dialog for the Windows Firewall Properties, hit the logon tab and selected the local system account, selected ok and then tried to start up the service.

I had a problem, instead I was greeted with the error:

Windows could not start the Windows Firewall service on Local Computer. Error 1079: The account specified on this service is different from the account specified for other services running in the same process.


This meant that the service could not run under the account "Local System" and after searching I found it should instead run as "LOCAL SERVICE" -- my first thought was that I did not have the password for LOCAL SERVICE. No fear, all you need to do is select "This account", enter LOCAL SERVICE and in the Password and Confirm Password boxes just enter the password as the user you are logged into. Click ok, and you will see the service getting a dialog back that a right has been granted the right to log on as a service.

This did not fix my ping problem, but the next step did.  I then went to my Windows Control Panel and selected the Windows Firewall option.  When that dialog came up, I selected the text on the upper left to Turn Windows Firewall On or Off; the Windows Firewall was turned on, so I selected off and clicked ok.
Then it should start up successfully, as mine did.

This did not fix my ping problem, but the next step did. I then went to my Windows Control Panel and selected the Windows Firewall option. When that dialog came up, I selected the text on the upper left to "Turn Windows Firewall On or Off"; the Windows Firewall was turned on, so I selected off and clicked ok.

And guess what?  Immediately from my Windows 2008 Server, and Apple Mac OS X (Snow Leopard) installation, Windows Vista / Windows 7 was again pingable.

And guess what? Immediately from my Windows 2008 Server, and Apple Mac OS X (Snow Leopard) installation, Windows Vista / Windows 7 was again pingable.

What I still cannot explain is how it all of sudden stopped working.  It could have been a Windows Update or possibly Vista Service Pack 2 that caused the issue to appear, but I really cannot say.  I'm just glad it is working again, and hopefully with luck this post will help a few of you out with the issue.

At this point, despite my hatred for the Windows Firewall service -- I was happy to have the service startup and be turned off, just so I could access the machine again. Once the ping problem was solved, Remote Desktop, File Sharing, and Printer sharing all started working again.

What I still cannot explain is how it all of sudden stopped working. It could have been a Windows Update or possibly Vista Service Pack 2 that caused the issue to appear, but I really cannot say. I'm just glad it is working again, and hopefully with luck this post will help a few of you out with the issue.

If so, I'd appreciate a tweet on twitter, link on Facebook, or even a comment below to let me know.

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