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Computer Ease
(archived) Technology News

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This page documents random thoughts, observations, hardware and software reviews, criticisms, rants, anecdotes, tips, tricks, and discoveries by Blake Nancarrow. The notes here pertain specifically to information technology. They are dated and arranged in reverse-order, the newest items at the top.

2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | the '90s


Index of Postings

  26 Oct   -   Quick Books export errors new!
  21 Oct   -   texting again new!
  19 Oct   -   3TB on sale new!
  13 Aug   -   USB drive dead
  11 Aug   -   60GB for $90
  4 Aug   -   2TB for $70
  29 Jul   -   no GBit
  29 Jul   -   noob wiring
  27 Jul   -   batteries everywhere
  24 Jul   -   Mom's on high-speed
  23 Jul   -   Mom's new computer
  6 Jul   -   repaired fan
  27 Jun   -   unstable
  21 Jun   -   Task Manager direct
  19 Jun   -   Skype up
  16 Jun   -   Ubuntu up (again)
  30 May   -   too hot
  24 May   -   in the area
  5 Apr   -   router culprit
  25 Mar   -   cordless phone culprit
  19 Mar   -   updated at -the-wire-
  2 Feb   -   testing fast
  27 Jan   -   Project 2010 update
  13 Jan   -   shopping for lead-acid
  6 Jan   -   12V 3A

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26 Oct 2011 - Quick Books export errors new!

I had a chance to examine an Excel spreadsheet exported from Quick Books. And was astonished at the errors in the formulas! They are completely wrong. They clear do not have an Excel expert around. And they didn't audit they work!

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21 Oct 2011 - texting again new!

Sorted out the SMS problem with my mobile phone. Actually got a helpful support person at Telus Mobility for a change. She said, "You're not getting text messages because you plan doesn't include that. It's a very old plan." Then she added the service so that it would work again. And gave me a small credit for all the text messages I had sent in the last month or so that didn't go anywhere.

I asked why it stopped working. She didn't understand. I said, "You said my plan didn't include texting." She agreed. "And you just activated that feature." She agreed again. "But why was it working before?" Silence. "I've been texting for years, so it was on my plan, somehow, and then it stopped." She said, "I don't know."

Amazing. Oh well. I don't care. It's working again.

Guess this shows how much I miss SMS.

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19 Oct 2011 - 3TB on sale new!

Price watch... TigerDirect (Canada) offered a 3TB drive for $170 today.

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13 Aug 2011 - USB drive dead

Another USB key memory stick FOB dohickey drive thing died on me. Had it in a laptop. Was working fine. Finished with the laptop so put it into Hibernate. The USB drive never came back.

That's about 2 out of 10 now. 20% failure rate!

This is a reminder that these things are LESS reliable than magnetic drives...

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11 Aug 2011 - 60GB for $90

Price watch... TigerDirect (Canada) offered the 60GB OCZ solid-state drive for $90 today, $15 off the regular price.

Looking forward to replacing the platter drive in the netbook. It's a 160GB if I remember correctly. Should be able to extend the battery life even further...

That said, saw internal 3TB platter drives offered too. Bigger and bigger.

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4 Aug 2011 - 2TB for $70

Price watch... TigerDirect (Canada) is offering the Western Digital internal SATA 2 Terabyte Drive today, "the lowest price ever" they say, for $69.97.

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29 Jul 2011 - no GBit

Was seeing conflicting information out on the web about the maximum speed of the ethernet port on the ASUS Eee PC 1000 HE netbook...

When testing the new ethernet lines at the RASC observatory, with a Dynex gigabit switch at the other end, I did not see the switch show a green LED on the port. Orange. 100 MBit. Sadly.

Not a great loss. By the time this machine dies, 1 GBit will be common...

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29 Jul 2011 - noob wiring

I've dropped cable before, I've been working with networks for a long time, I've fished wiring between joists, I've worked with drop ceilings, but I never got 'round to doing full-up cable ethernet wiring, i.e. making the connectors. The recently purchased crimp tool and plugs were still sitting, untouched, in the electronics toolbox. Up at the RASC Toronto Centre observatory near Collingwood, I finally got my chance.

Using the recently pulled CAT 6 cabling, I attached some (male) plugs and (female) jacks. The plugs were pretty easy with the "new" type, with the wire insert. The jacks were easy in the on-board hints on the side of the keystone jack. I had hoped to source a spring-loaded punch down tool but found the "simple" one worked fine.

Performed testing with two similar units. Charles provided a Pro'sKit 3PK-NT005 tester while Gilles (via Phil) offered the no-name S1007. I liked Gilles's better as if gave a more detailed report of faults.

We used the telescope mount controlling laptop, a Dell, to perform "gigabit tests" of the new lines and the new gigabit switch.

The only mistake was electing to use 568A format before reading the sheath on the CAT 6 cable... Oops!

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27 Jul 2011 - batteries everywhere

I've noticed lately "regular" stores carrying UPS batteries. For example, at Staples or TigerDirect, you can get a fresh battery for your APC (or other) uninterruptible power supply. I like it! Finding these replacement batteries in the past was a little difficult. This will hopeful drive down prices a bit too.

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24 Jul 2011 - Mom's on high-speed

Mom bought a Bell Internet wireless hub for high speed internet service at home. I hooked it up. Well, that's not really the best way to describe it. I plugged it in... I configured it. It worked!

What a treat! Good wireless service now. The ASUS netbook worked well. Finally. A good signal while I'm here.

Told Donna to bring over her netbook. We set it up too.

Glad to not have to use Rogers. But I did like how the Ericsson hub showed signal strength with multiple lights.

Tried the unit upstairs and near different windows on the main floor. It was difficult to know how much of a difference it made. I did a bit of digging to try to confirm the location of the nearest cell tower. Seems it is in Port Stanley.

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23 Jul 2011 - Mom's new computer

Hooked up Mom's new Apple iMac. Beautiful machine. Transferred over all her data (with USB key drives) from the old blueberry iMac. Configured Safari and Mail. Installed OpenOffice. I was very happy about that. Installed Stellarium. She really enjoyed that.

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6 Jul 2011 - repaired fan

I noticed that the cooling fan inside the ASUS Eee PC netbook computer was not running. Actually, rolling back, I realised I had seen the temperature value reported was fairly high. And before that, that the keyboard itself (where laptops often vent excess heat) was very hot.

Yikes! I didn't want this CPU to burn up!

So I pulled the machine apart, photographing things as I went. Had a bit of trouble during the disassembly but a couple of web sites were helpful.

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27 Jun 2011 - unstable

The DSL service from Bell has been very poor. End of May was bad but then seemed to settle. Suddenly on June 6, it went down a few times. Middle of June, no issues. Then on June 26 and 27, the DSL was dropping frequently. I was getting ready to call when it settled...

I was not seeing any pattern with respect to weather, rain, phone use, palmtop computer, etc. It seems random.

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21 Jun 2011 - Task Manager direct

Well. It's not like it was just invented. But I didn't know about it until a couple of days ago; and I've already used it a few times!

If you want to get to the Windows Task Manager, to monitor processes, or kill an application, everyone knows that you press Ctrl-Alt-Del. But now, in general, in newer versions of Windows, this actual brings up a general purpose menu where you can lock the computer, jump into the Task Manager, shut down, or do other stuff.

If you wanna bypass this general menu and go directly to Task Manager, the "new" keyboard shortcut is Ctrl-Shift-Esc.

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19 Jun 2011 - Skype up

Loaded Skype 2.2 beta on the Linux box. Configured it to use some external speakers and an external HD camera.

Pretty easy setup.

This is the preferred tool for the RASC Toronto Centre council and strategic planning meetings...

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16 Jun 2011 - Ubuntu up (again)

On the hp desktop AMD dual core computer gifted from Cam, I installed Ubuntu. Specifically loaded up Release 11.04 (natty) which uses the Kernel Linux 2.6.38-10-generic and GNOME 2.32.1.

Transferred files from the earlier Ubuntu testing.

Been a few changes while I've been away. I like the "task bar" on the left. The menus integrated into the title bar. That's very Mac-like! There appears to be a built-in instant messaging client, Empathy. And I loaded up LibreOffice 3.3, the OpenOffice variant.

Loaded up Stellarium and kStars and BOINC, of course. Firefox 5.0.

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30 May 2011 - too hot

The cool weather this spring deferred the issue but my Gateway tower computer, John Smallberries, has started to shutdown due to the heat. The cheap-o CPU muffin is not running reliably. I can't find any 4-wire fans in my parts bins.

Perhaps when I'm returning from a work gig downtown, I'll pop into Above All Electronics near the Bathurst subway. Haven't been there for a while...

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24 May 2011 - in the area

Bell Internet called. Said they'd be "in the area" next week and wanted to know if they could test my line and equipment. Huh. Funny timing.

Tech came 'round, did lots of tests, secure the loose wire outside, said they'd do some more things from their end, and swapped out the jack for a new integrated jack. It has a DSL filter built in!

I had had a lot of problems on April 10 and 11. And then more outages and drops on May 22.

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5 Apr 2011 - router culprit

Talked to a tech at 310-SURF, aka Bell, to tackle the wobbly DSL internet. After a bunch of tests, he said, "It's your Linksys router." Huh? Really? It had worked fine on Evelyn Crescent. He said, "I've been doing this 33 years." After further discussion, he agreed to send out a new 2-wire modem. 

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25 Mar 2011 - cordless phone culprit

Tech came 'round, sent from Bell, to tackle the wobbly DSL internet. After a bunch of tests, he said, "It's your Panasonic cordless phone." Huh? Really? It had worked fine on Evelyn Crescent. He assured me it was not the Corning filter. I plugged in the old Northern Tel phone and he said it was good.

I was experiencing frequent drops, any time, night and day. It started about a week ago and was intermittent. The last 2 days were very frequent.

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19 Mar 2011 - updated at -the-wire-

My fantastic web hosting company, -the-wire-, applied some changes to my account. Lots of changes. New server, presumably. New web-based e-mails tools (don't like Squirrel; like RoundCube). A back-end control panel. And it looks like a bunch of modern tools. I could possibly start playing with databases, CMS tools, etc.

I'm very happy to have total control over my own e-mail alias.

If I can only find the time...

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2 Feb 2011 - testing fast

In the past, I have used the speed test tools at the 2wire web site.

Today I was referred to a "better" broadband speed test site, over at TeraGo.

I don't actually care if one is better than the other. Independent test tools is most useful.

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27 Jan 2011 - Project 2010 update

Finished updating the level 2 quick reference guides for Microsoft Project 2010 for Beezix Software Services.

Overall, I'm ambivalent about the 2010 version. It's probably because the bulk of the effort by MS was put into the interface, switching from menus and toolbars to the ribbon. I guess I have high standards and I high expectations of what this software can do.

In the same way that the tabs "evolved" in the regular Office apps, from 2007 to 2010, I would think the next version of Project will be much better. There really need to be more tabs...

And I want more resource types!

I'm also not completely convinced that manual-scheduling is the way to go...

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13 Jan 2011 - shopping for lead-acid

A client had an older APC uninterruptible power supply they wanted me to rejuvenate. I did a bit of research and found a Canadian supplier. In British Columbia actually. Vidtek Battery Canada. Very wide selection.

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6 Jan 2011 - 12V 3A

Double-checked the volts and amps requires for the ASUS netbook. 12 volts direct current and 3.0 amperes. Huh. That means I could make a "straight-through" adapter for use in the car... Or off a lead-acid battery.

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This page was last updated on 26 February 2013.
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