Archive for December, 2009


Before performing my own system migration, I received a request from R to extract her old address book from her “retired” Sony Ericsson W910 unit. She has since upgraded to a Yaris but needed all of her 60 contacts from the older device. Well, one may ask why can she extract the data herself? Answer? The keypad from the old phone is defunct! In order to synchronise data upstream from her W910 to a computer with Sony Ericsson’s PC Suite installed, a connection has to be made & the Sony Ericsson way of connection means the user has to confirm a “mode of connection” to establish the link. Nokia devices will also have such a prompt upon an USB connection, but unlike SE, once the Nokia phone is detected physically via USB, it can be manipulated from the PC side without any further input from the phone side. I cannot explain how I got it done, but if you will like a proof of a successful connection & data extraction, may I redirect your attention to this YouTube video:

I also migrated BH’s desktop system to Windows 7 across 2 days (on-site, I might add). In addition, Frederick’s desktop PC died on Xmas 2009 due to multiple device failures, i.e. hard disks & graphics card. I was originally slated to assist him with this opportunity (for him) to migrate to Windows 7 as well, but the hardware damage was beyond my voodoo. I actually brought all the gear up to his place, i.e. installation discs, external “volume-of-goodness”, etc. Currently, the only opportunity he has is to test whether the extra $100 he paid for extended warranty 2 years back will be worth the price. BH actually has me scheduled to service his girlfriend’s XP laptop, but to avoid this I have actually flown out of Singapore (haha…just kidding). He will find some way to drop it in my in-tray somehow. See how lah.

To be honest, the successful operations on both R’s defunct cellphone & my self-inflicted notebook mishap, really does bring me joy. But joy alone, won’t foot the bill.

UPDATE #1: As a matter of fact, in deed I found myself taking a look at BH’s girlfriend’s laptop (also dropped by to tie up any loose ends with his Outlook [Gmail] profile prompt, which was my lapse, to be honest), which is a huge Acer notebook. Nothing seems to be out of place except for the lack of an antivirus installed. Nonetheless, I setup Avira AntiVir & Spybot Search & Destroy on her system by downloading the installers through her web browser. I even managed to update both malware-preventive suites with no issues. Have no idea, then, why BH says her laptop’s wireless is defunct, since connecting to a private WLAN (his) was not an issue.

UPDATE #2: In the end also asked BH to find a flip-cover leather case for his iPod Touch by himself (I was tasked for it originally), since:

  • online purchases save only $8-$10
  • accessory appearnces is a subjective manner
  • I was dealing with the blows from my school module bidding system
  • I refuse to accept the fact that he cannot cash-&-carry a simply flip-cover leather casing in Challenger, Jurong Point, which is so freaking near his residence

UPDATE #3: Now I was tasked to shortlist some portable hard disk candidates to replace 1 of his faulty ones…the “orders” just keep coming in…


"Electronic Surgery"

I was preparing some Vista drivers for the impending migration when I noticed a BIOS firmware update available for my Samsung laptop. Decided to go for it & succeeded without any hiccups. Feeling adventurous, I decided to overhaul the physical innards of my laptop to clean the fans & reduce heat build-up. This proved to be a folly as I guess one is limited to a single brash act per night.

Notice the version number of the outdated firmware

The BIOS flashing is performed within a live Windows session

...& it is done

In short, I tore the laptop apart, failed to access the fan comfortably enough to clean it. And when I put everything back together again, the Touchpad & Bluetooth wasn’t working. Great, I damaged my system just when I was about to format it. After the initial panic, I googled around for solutions & more importantly, the service manuals of my specific system. After some examination of the printed labels of the components on my laptop mainboard, I cross-referenced the connection pathways with 3 related Samsung models’ (one of which is my model) schematics. With a more-or-less affirmative Bluetooth module part number. (technicians should find this term very familiar), I performed a “Google Image Search” for this part no. to obtain a visual confirmation to avoid “operating” & destroying another component by mistake. After I know visually what I’m supposed to work on, I went back to the schematics to trace the connection across the Printed Circuit Board. One time, I was very sure the components exist correctly on both the schematics & my actual laptop mainboard, but the layout on the schematics is foreign to me; it turned out I was looking at the inverse side of my laptop plastic shell & the whole inspection was upside-down literally. Once I set my orientation straight I was able to verify the integrity of the module’s connection, and by-chance, I managed to ID the disconnected cable of my Touchpad and all was fine again, expected for 4 broken keys on my keyboard (collateral damage?).

Let's split this unit open!

In the process of dismantling...

Again, I suspect Samsung service cte forgot to return some of my screws from last time

Read 5 Samsung notebook schematics from other models within the family before I chanced upon the right part number...

Next, I have to figure out the correct orientation of the pieces I have on my hands...

Finally found the elusive pathway of the bluetooth module

...& re-connect the dislodged Synaptics touch-pad cable.

Nope, I still didn’t manage to clean my fan. I will also not like to do this again. I supposed to broken keys will serve as a painful reminder the next time I’m feeling adventurous it is probably a sign to forecast the possible occurrence of an act of stupidity. Did I mention I have no electrical engineering fundamentals & half the time I was interpreting the schematics my brain was fuelled by instinct in place of logic?


It has been many days since my last blog entry. System re-format of my production laptop has been completed to a satisfactory level. In a way, it proves to be a major refresh in my experience with setting up new systems; as well as a (coerced) opportunity to archive, restructure & organize my critical data. Sometimes one really need a “scorched-earth” policy to decide which data to keep on-board the laptop, which data to re-locate to an offline/external volume & well, which data that you have been accumulating for no good justification at all. I encountered the inevitable “filename-too-long” issue with Windows’ file system, i.e. the folder-levels are too deep causing an absolute  file-path of >255 characters

Windows will prevent moving/deleting certain files & folders if they are buried too deep within a directory hierarchy

Well, some data has to be trashed; it is unavoidable. Nonetheless, migrating to Windows 7 also meant the revision of my “format.txt”, which is currently in its 5th edition. I’m considering whether to publish the contents of that document, but am a bit reluctant to do so due to the amount of hard work I’d invested in it on my own time, research & painful experiences. Even if I upload, it will be a “Director’s cut” per se, as the full uncut version will have more thorough explanations of why each step is performed at which point using which approach. I don’t think anybody will be keen to read the full-length article too.

UPDATE: I was looking for screen captures of this error & chanced upon this blog entry, which lead me to a Microsoft knowledge-base article that provides a work-around (this is not a real solution in my opinion; the issue still exists within the file-system) for older versions of Windows.

Discounting the amount of time to prepare for data backup & planning an updated version of the procedures, the time expended on the actual system migration is 2 days. The user interface of the Windows 7 platform simplifies & centralizes many UI elements which made many of my steps unnecessary; yet, in other aspects of the system control, most notably the “Advanced Power Options”, Windows 7 caters for a finer-level of manipulation:

I went through the entire configuration...2~3 times on different machines I setup

…which implies more time invested to tweak those. In addition, I abandoned Media Player Classic, Ahead Nero as well as Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware applications as the former candidate was replaced by a more streamlined candidate, VLC (after considering GOM Player, KM Player, SPlayer), and the later 2 apps elevated to the status of “bloatware”. Nero is replaced by ImgBurn, which after my roaming around in various non-affiliated forums, proved to be a more reliable disc authoring app specific to the Windows 7 platform (no offense to CDBurnerXP, which is remarkable on XP systems). The most troublesome of the whole migration is a customized Firefox environment & more in part due to, the migration of my music library to the new iTunes installation. In fact, the iTunes fiasco took the better part of the 2nd day of system migration.

The reason is because I invest heavily in smart playlists, which meant I must retain my play & skip counts and individual song rating for my sole library. It is further complicated as I have both music within my “iTunes Music” folder, “My music” folder as well as podcasts and AppStore applications for my iPod Touch. As if life wasn’t hard enough, I’m moving to a different Windows system as well as a new version of iTunes (version 9). Windows XP (old system) & Windows 7 have different directory hierarchy for the “User documents” location;

The "My Documents" folders that we are so familiar with, have shifted location in Windows Vista & Windows 7

iTunes 8 & iTunes 9 have different ways of structuring their “Home” folder as well:

This is how my "iTunes Music" folder was organized originally

iTunes 9 way of structuring its Home folder

In short, because of the way I store my music & moving to a new Windows’ & iTunes version, in order to retain my music library, it takes *some* “due diligence”. As this point in time, I wish to credit 2 authors for which this iTunes migration will not be possible. The 2 tips are:

#1. “How to use a few playlists to eradicate broken links in iTunes library”. Comment: this one is really smart: link

Btw, some smart guy managed to accomplish this in less playlists than the original author of the tip, BUT! I encourage one to review my response to his tip:

[Damn! I lost my response to the smart guy’s updated method!]

UPDATE #1: found my response in an email somewhere. Here goes:

[Anyway, here’s the more relevant findings:

With regards to “UPDATE January 2009” on your tip pages contributed by Josh Watson, although right-clicking while holding down “Shift” key makes the “Delete” menu item appear in the smart playlist, clicking delete does nothing. I tried twice on my Smart Playlist, “Missing Files”. No activity whatsoever. In the end, I used your method, i.e. “To get around this, I selected all tracks in my Missing Files folder, did Files\New Playlist from Selection (since it won’t let you drag & drop the dead tracks to a playlist), and then deleted them from there.” to delete the orphan files from a static playlist.

With regards to the same update as above, specifically this section:

“Also, you need to add the following rules to the Dead Files list:
“Podcast” “is” “false” –> or it will include podcasts
“Kind” “does not contain” “Audible” –> or it will include audiobooks (nearly deleted mine!)
“Kind” “does not contain” “MPEG” –> or it will include vodcasts (nearly deleted mine!)”

I feel that it is ‘okay’ to let podcasts remain in the Missing Files, because ultimately the individual podcasts that remained ‘captured’ inside the Smart Playlist, ‘Missing Files’ will still be orphan files, & I have no idea why anyone wishes to retain entries of broken/orphan podcasts in their library. In addition, I have a ‘hunch’ that ‘MPEG’ is NOT the only type of video file supported in iTunes, hence even filtering out ‘MPEG as a Kind’ may still delete someone’s video files, although, again, I have no idea why someone wishes to keep broken entries of video files in their library UNLESS the video is already on their iPod & they wish for the video to remain on their iPod.

With regards to Lee McKay’s update on Sep 2009, his method of using 2 playlists does not have the ability to catch/filter out/pin-point orphan video files/podcasts, because of:

“2) Make a smart playlist called “Missing Files” with the rules set as ” ‘Playlist’ ‘is’ ‘Music’ ” and another rule set as ” ‘Playlist’ ‘is not’ ‘All Live Files’ ””

That’s all from me. & thank you for the smart tip.]


#2.“How-to-edit-iTunes_library.xml-to-reflect-new-music-file-path-then-corrupt-fresh-iTunes_library.itl-to-force-iTunes-to-regenerate-new-iTunes_library.itl-from-updated-iTunes_library.xml-to-retain-metadata-from-old-iTunes-music-library”. For a better understanding of this tip, pay extra attention to Part II of this article.

Nonetheless, I have to re-subscribe to all my podcasts as well as re-sync all my iPod Touch applications upstream due to my own negligence. Can’t blame nobody but just have to embrace the situation & move on.

UPDATE #2: Anyway after performing the iTunes migration & restoration, in my opinion, iTunes method of organizing multimedia definitely has room for improvement. As cloud storage plummet in costs, I suggest that each individual has his iTunes media, be it music, videos, ipod applications, etc., stored perpetually in the cloud, managed by his iTunes account. This way, any re-installation of iTunes due to technical circumstances, can be totally encapsulated from any impact to his media. Upon the fresh installation of iTunes, he just needs to login to his account, & all his previous media will be accessible. Likewise, friends can showcase their favourite songs, movies, etc., on each other’s PC simply by logging into their account on their friend’s computer. Isn’t this way more user-friendly?

UPDATE #2a: I believe the preceding implementation will resolve 2 additional problems. Having your account, profile/configurations stored in the cloud means that any system format will have your podcast subscriptions & auto-delete preferences restored seamlessly when your new system is up & running. Furthermore, although most savvy users are currently shifting their music collection off to an external volume, such volumes housing large collections of multimedia are usually non-portable 3.5″ external hard disks or even NAS devices. So if I want to synchronise my music while I’m outside with my netbook (& to a lesser extent, remove finished podcasts), I can’t do it without lugging my external storage along. If my media is actually stored in the cloud, I can sign into the same iTunes account/profile on my netbook (or any number of disparate devices) & still synchronise my iPod “properly” against a single media source (instead of having any nasty surprises as compared to if I sync one iPod against a few different external volumes of media, if that is even possible).

So besides the iTunes issue, all the rest of the system migration is not as tense as my previous system migrations; I guess my attitude towards this whole aspect of my life has become less anal-retentive”. Happily enjoying my Windows 7 Ultimate system for the time-being (except when I write this entry I was actually on a plane). Oh btw, did I mention what happened to my laptop right after the decision to migrate it was made? To find out more, read part 2 of this “holiday special”.

Tasks

Posted: December 8, 2009 by ralliart12 in ScratchPad
Tags: , ,

This post is now backdated. For continuity, please refer to the following new post.

PLS SUPPORT

If you are a Hardwarzone forum member, pls do support me by visiting my thread on Ovi Games (discussion & pseudo-game reviews) at this link & drop a few comments. Thanx.

Now that my exams are over, I’ve a few pertinent items to attend to (arranged in order of priority):

  • Set up my Nokia N97
    • Update its firmware if necessary – Done (implicitly this is also the 1st time I de-brand a Nokia device; I dunno why some people say until it’s a big deal when I, one who have never done it b4, took all of 5mins to find the apps to get the process started). So now the N97 is at firmware level:

    v2.0 is not made available to local sets; have to de-brand to "qualify" for this upgrade

    • Begin my game reviews on Ovi Games
  • Assist R to migrate her contacts from her old cellphone to her current unit
    • Acquire a 4GB microSD for her – Done
    • Extract Contacts from the phonebook from her defunct W910 – Done (in 3 different formats, a nicely-generated PDF list, a PC Suite backup file, i.e. dbk file, & if all else fails, print screen of all 60 phonebk entries)

    Float Mobile Agent can detect all details of the device, even down to individual text messages within the inbox & outbox, but it just couldn't complete one read-cycle of the Phonebook on the onboard memory

    Finally got the "OFFICIAL" Sony Ericsson PC Suite to detect the W910 after some random magic

  • Update the firmware of my iPod Touch 1G to firmware v3.1.2
    • Done! Pleasant surprise included!

    Backup is done. All systems go...

    EULAs that nobody has the time or energy to read

    Downloading the firmware file. Size of 238MB for gen1 Touch is similar to the manually downloaded copy I retrieved from the net.

    & the pleasant surprise is that the device wasn’t wiped of its configuration & data after a firmware update! Even though I expected it to; I even did proper backup procedures & this outcome really does save me a load of work!

  • Update the firmware on my E71 to v400.21.013 – considered Done lah, but some negative repercussions occurred as a result of the new firmware 😦

Before

Taking the leap...

  • Migrate main laptop’s OS to Windows 7 (man, this is gonna be the real kicker)
    • (A lot of) backup required
  • Re-install Windows 7 on my netbook (don’t ask)
  • Train for IPPT
  • Tidy up my room – Done, but further effort is strongly warranted.

(more…)

Time for a replacement

Posted: December 8, 2009 by ralliart12 in 1-hour notebook
Tags: , , , , , ,

Active service: 17 Sep 2007 - 08 Dec 2009

After slightly >2 years, the rubber coated buttons of my Razer Diamondback non-3G Plasma Blue LE desktop mouse finally degraded beyond repair. Multiple attempts to “rescue”/clean/disinfect the surfaces did not make it better, but in fact, made the rubber more “sticky”. I suspect it’s the isophyrol alcohol that is reacting adversely with the rubber material. So in other ways, the acids from the oil secreted from my fingers accelerated the wearing-out of the rubber-coated buttons & turned the rubber scroll wheel yellow; & the chemicals from the wet tissues nailed the stake in its heart. Nonetheless, the mouse has served me pretty well (& comfortably) over two years but alas, it’s time for a replacement.


SY

#1:

SY asked me for portable hard disk recommendation. I recommended Buffalo Ministation & Freecom ToughDrive because both models has integrated USB cords, shock-protection for the internal hard disk (for both specific models, the internal hard disk is actually “floating” on 4 foam support rails such that impact from the outside is mitigated as it traverses along the foam rails). The Freecom ToughDrive was my favourite candidate because its USB cord wrap-around is so nicely designed that it will not protrude from the dimensions of the casing. It also comes in a nice grippy rubber coating so that the arsehol that tries to knock it off your desk is not gonna have his way.

CY

#2:

CY asked me why his girlfriend’s newly-purchased portable hard disk is not detected by her system. I told him perhaps the hard disk is tired? I also prescribed the usual troubleshooting steps, i.e. connect directly to an USB port instead of a hub, use Disk Management console to see whether the volume is detected but not auto-mounted, etc.

#2.5:
Provided port-forwarding guide as well as Wireless@SG account sign-up information for MH, whom recently jumped over to Singtel Mio plan.

#3:

Some guy from NTU asked me to recommend physical QWERTY phones to him & he seems intent on re-contracting for a new phone after one year. He was interested in the E71 but I strongly advised him to wait for another year to pass so that he can enjoy a 2-year recontractual price on a E72 with a much more mature firmware. Nonetheless he really wants to recontract now & buy directly from singtelshop online, even though I reminded him of the already-inflated price & the lowly $100 recontract rebate. His money not mine. Asked about the BlackBerry, & some HTC devices as well, he did. In the end, have to spend a while explaining to him the concept of “Push Mail”. Curiously enough, one of his considerations for the incoming device was whether the sound of its camera shutter can be easily hacked to silent. Hmm…

Inquisitive NTU chap

Actually this fellow from NTU also asked me a lot of stuff…very inquisitive chap. & he’s studying computing at NTU & ALSO have to undergo RT as well; perhaps that’s why I feel an affinity towards him?…

I may need to migrate S’s laptop to Windows 7 soon as well…her system is sluggish & running low on disk space…