May 29, 2013

May - 22 2013 | By

Notifications of new show notes and edits are tweeted at: twitter.com/ddhart.
– They're tagged with #Zentech.
– When what's said is unclear to me (or I'm unfamiliar with a topic) I tend to quote (" ") verbatim.
– Editor's comments are delimited by < >

 

NOTE: The next Zentech show will be on June 5 trading time slots with Bike Talk which will broadcast on the 12th.

 

Both Glenn & Paul were in the studio today

Paul has been playing around with a web camera with the intention of documenting the construction of the new KVMR headquarters using time-lapse photography.

Glenn didn't have much new to report except he mentioned that he's doing good with his new Pure Talk cellular service at $43.95 per month.

He doesn't exceed his allotted 600meg a month of data usage because he uses wi-fi when he can, when he's away from home. There's a cheaper plan at $10 a month, and there are family plans too.

Paul said the cheapest way to get a cellular plan is to use a Go Phone SIM card. It costs about $5 a month and gives you about 20 or 30 minutes of voice calls and a certain number of text (txt) messages at 10 or 20 cents each.
– The best place to get the SIM is NOT from AT&T but from an online vendor like Ebay or Amazon.
– Just remember that incoming calls count against the allotted time, too.
– There's an alternate Go Phone plan for $1 a day with additional charges for calls, text and data.
– These Go Phones plans are handy for temporary use: for visiting foreigners or people with a credit problem that prevents buying a regular contract.
– When you activate the SIM you get to pick the area that's local for you.
– Beware that you may end up paying ala Carte for various services.

Glenn looked at an ad from Rakuten (formerly Best Buy) and found an LED flashlight, camera & video recorder in one unit for $30. Also known a "key cam", this type of device is often used by sports enthusiasts to record their antics. Paul saw one attached to the nose of a 3D-printed missile being shot out of a potato cannon (a PVC pipe) at a Maker fair. It gave the perspective of someone being shot out of the cannon.
– Key cams usually have a USB port. That provides the means for charging the on-board battery.
– They look similar to a flash drive.
– They don't need any special drivers.

Glenn said he saw pre-assembled quad coptors at the recent Maker Fair and noted they have a place to attach a small camera.

Paul said the quality of such cameras is based on 2 aspects:
– The resolution: anything less than a 640 x 480 is unacceptable.
– The optics. You don't necessarily need a big lens, but a good quality one. However, a small lens makes it harder to get a decent picture in low light.
– Sometimes a camera has what looks like a big lens, but if you look closer, it may just be glass covering the actual, smaller lens further inside.
– The cameras are sensitive to infrared. If you dim your lights, you may be able to record the infrared light coming from your TV remote controller.

Fred called. His laptop keeps shutting itself off and rebooting. It's been doing this for a few months at a rate of a few times per week. Just today it's done it several times. It's a reconditioned Asus that's less than a year old with 90day warranty (it's now out of warranty).
– Remember, using a credit card for a purchase may double your original warranty (up to 1 year).
– Paul thought the problem might be a motherboard failure.
– There's a chance it may be due to overheating. But Fred said it's not warm in the least. And Paul said, typically a laptop will issue a warning when it's overheating.
– You can have Asus repair it but might be costly.
– When you call Asus, feign as if you didn't know its warranty was only 90 days. Tell them the symtoms only (not what you suspect is wrong: the motherboard).
– Companies keep a record of the serial numbers so they know if it's refurbished.

Paul does not hesitate to buy refurbished equipment. The major drawback is the typically shorter warranty period. Even current computer models can come as refurbished units. Packard Bell used to push the boundary of what's considered refurbished by repackaging machines that were returned by customers for the simple reason of not liking them. Such machines should have been labeled as refurbished.

There are two types of refurbishing:
– The process of refurbishing typically means it went back to the manufacturer (though not necessarily). In the process the original software is reloaded and tests are run to insure it's working.
– The other type of refurbished units are those that have come of lease. A company may get a tax break to get new machines so the older units go back to the manufacturer who then wipe everything clean, restore it to factory defaults and run tests.

Some BIOSs on some computers have a burn-in check option. It's usually hidden away so you have to know where to look. You get to the BIOS configuration screen when you boot up an hit the F2 or Del key (varies by machine). The burn-in check causes the computer to go thru a series of self-tests over and over again until you stop it. The burn-in process is usually done for 72 hours, as most failures will happen in that time. Knowing this could be useful if you suspect a problem with your computer.

Paul mentioned during the last show something I left out of those notes: fried bacon. That refers to the deliberate noise or hiss that's injected into a VOIP (internet phone call) connection to let you know the line is open. He said that old telephones used carbon granular microphones, which produced a characteristic noise similar to frying bacon when you were not actually speaking. Now days, VOIP circuits have a digital signal processor that produces a similar noise, though it's much quieter now.

William called. He's looking to upgrade a 2007 MacBook Pro with more memory and a hard drive. He wondered if he has to get memory with the same megahertz rating as his current memory.
– No. Get memory that's equal in speed to what you have or greater.
– His machine has an Intel Duo Core and Glenn said if you don't have, at least, a Core 2 Duo, you wont be able to upgrade to latest operating system.
– He's already upgraded to version 10.68 and Paul said that's possibly the highest you can go, maybe 10.7.
– William said he's been getting the spinning wheel a lot (indicating computer is busy). Paul said he should look for the cause before upgrading.
– Run the disk utility check. William said he's done that.
– Check how much free disk space is available. Things start to slow down when there's less that 10% spare space.
– Before buying a drive check which type it is. It could be an IDE or SATA drive that's in there now.
– There are links in last week's show notes for finding the serial number. And then, using the serial, there's a link to find more details about your computer.
– Memory is not special to the Mac. It can use memory advertised for the PC.
– There are two speed ratings: the clock speed and the buss speed.
– Using some of the numbers William provided, Paul found that he needs DDR 2 memory. DDR or DDR 3 will not work.
– The type of physical memory that goes into those computers is called SODIMM.

Now on to the hard drive upgrade. Paul seemed think William's computer has the newer SATA type.
– You should be able to find a 500gig drive for under $100.
– You may want to go with the faster 7200 type drive instead of the 5400. But the faster one is less common in laptops and more common in desktop computers.

William asked about a hybrid type drive. Paul explained that these are made with flash memory instead of the spinning disks. Paul said he hasn't had any experience with them and that they are fairly new to the market. There used to be drives that had a few gigs of flash memory for booting the machine and the rest of the drive had the spinning platters. Glenn suggested he check the local big box stores like Fry's, especially for the memory.

Gary called. He helped a friend clean up hard drive by deleting files. He noticed that the machine was reporting one value for available memory but when he highlighted the files, he determined a very different number. He ended up reinstalling the Vista operating system. He wanted to know why he was getting such different numbers.
– Use Crap Cleaner, <ccleaner> The latest is version is 4 and it's free. That gets rid of unneeded files <that were not put there by the user>. "If you did that, that's all she wrote".
– Vista is buggy and can stop in the middle of enumerating the content of a folder when you right-click and view its 'properties'.
– As a first check when a drive seems to misbehave, use the command chkdsk.
– A couple of disk utilities mentioned on previous shows are Ztree and TeraCopy <I hope that's the right link>. You should be able to find them at cnet.com aka download.com.
– Paul finally remembered the utility he was trying to recall: Windirstat and it's free. It shows you what type of files you have and where they are.
– He thought William (above) could use a similar utility called Grand Perspective on his Mac. There's a link at Windirstat that takes you to Grand Perspective.
– Remember to empty the trash, too.
<Alternate link to Windirstat is here.>

Frank called with a problem similar to Fred's (above) — keeps shutting off — but he has a desktop Asus (10 years old). The other difference is that his machine works better when it gets hot.
– Paul thought it might be a bad solder connection on motherboard.
– Since this machine is about 10 years old, the capacitors may be the problem. It's related to heat and gets worse with age. To find out more, google the words: bad caps. The cure, in a lot of the cases, is resoldering the components, a nearly impossible job on modern motherboards.
– You can start replacing parts (e.g. power supply) but it's such an old machine it may not be worth repairing. No use to keep throwing money at it. For $200 to $400 you can find a good replacement.

Frank also has a set-top DVD recorder that doesn't work anymore. He was thinking of replacing the drive.
– If it's a 'slot load', a replacement could be expensive. Frank's is a 'tray load'.
– Check if it's an IDE or SATA type. IDE is more expensive.
– Paul's caveat: don't used buy CD or DVD burners ("they age poorly") <talked about this in the 5-8-13 show>, or used batteries.

Paul talked about web cameras:
– Dlink wireless cameras are about $70 but with a little hunting you might find one on auction for $35, as Paul did.
– They can be set up to send the pictures via FTP to an internet account.
– They can be made to detect motion. You just tell it what part of the image to pay attention to for motion. And you can set the sensitivity to ignore something small, like a cat.
– It can record video and you can watch live video remotely.
– He intends to talk more about it on the next show.
– Google the words: Dlink wireless webcam. They make several models.

Changelog:
typo: unexceptable to unacceptable
added link: Ztree
added link: TeraCopy
typo: TerraCopy to TeraCopy
changed link: downloads.com to download.com
added link: Grand Perspective
added link: Windirstat
added link: Alternate link to Windirstat

Last updated 9:53 PM 6/1/2013