Archive for the ‘hardware’ Category

Nexus One Not Available in Thailand

January 6, 2010

Google are promoting the Nexus One phone for direct sale on the web. I was not surprised to see that it is not available in Thailand. Unfortunately tech companies see Thailand as a low priority.

Nexus One Not in Thailand

Nexus One Not in Thailand

It is available without service in the US, UK, Singapore and Hong Kong.

I don’t doubt the phone will show up in a few days at the popular spots for grey-market imports: MBK Center and Panthip Plaza.

I Took the Printer to Canon

December 24, 2009

Yesterday, I took my failed Canon MP610 printer to the Canon (Thailand) Service Centre on Sathorn Road. It was a 200B taxi ride including a 45B toll. I rarely take taxis so I did not know the best route. Unfortunately the box was too big for me to take the Subway and Skytrain.

The centre was quiet and they served me almost immediately. They will contact me in a few days with a diagnosis and price. The actual service could take 15 days. My experience with camera repairs suggests it will be less.

Here’s a picture of the Service Centre.

Canon (Thailand) Service & Showroom
I felt self-conscious using a Nikon camera in the Canon office so I did not take many shots.

The district around the Canon office is full of high-rise offices. It is “international bland” and could be almost anywhere. It was lunch time when I finished at Canon. The streets were full of thousands of office workers heading for lunch as they would be almost anywhere. It was a lovely day so I had a cheap lunch people-watching.

Boxed Up & Ready To Go

December 22, 2009

Canon MP610 Printer in its Box

Further to this post about my Canon printer problems:

I have no choice but to take my Canon MP610 All-in-One printer back to Canon for servicing. I hoped I could buy a new print head and install it myself. But Canon replied saying they need to check it. That’s sensible – the print head could be fine but the software / hardware that tests it and raises the misleading U052 “type of print head is incorrect” error is faulty. I don’t know where the temperature sensor is.

Fortunately I kept the shipping box. I packed it this morning. Before doing that I powered-it on again to see if the U052 error remained. It did.

When I have time I’ll take a taxi across town to the Canon Service Centre. At least I don’t live up-country.

Canon MP610 Printer Problem

December 19, 2009

I was printing some photos for friends this evening when my Canon MP610 Multifunction printer developed a problem.

The printer’s display showed:

U052

The type of print head is incorrect. Install the correct print head.

That’s meaningless! The print head was fine a second ago. Why does it now say the type is incorrect. Also – what is the “correct” print head it supposedly needs? As far as I know there is only one type – the type that I installed when I bought the printer.

I looked for the on-screen manual on my laptop. Of course it was in Thai due to the problem I wrote about here. The installation software assumed that as my computer is in Thailand I wanted Thai-language software. Wrong!

I had to hunt online for an English manual. Of course this was a time my Internet connection went back to its old slow ways and the download took 15 minutes. I did not expect much from Canon’s troubleshooting guide and I wasn’t disappointed.

Canon MP610 Error U051-U052

I did as it advised. I removed all four ink tanks, lifted the lock lever for the print head and removed it. The printer is well-designed. Everything was easy to see, remove and re-install.

I keep the printer under a dust cover when I’m not using it so the inside of the printer was clean.

I re-installed the print head and the ink tanks, closed the cover and …

The same U052 error appeared. I tried once more but it’s a hard error.

So my MP610 is now a great doorstop. It does not even function as a scanner because this error comes up during its Power-On Self-Test and it won’t go on-line until the error is cleared.

My “Canon Service representative” is Canon (Thailand) on Sathorn Road. The printer’s too big to take on the Subway so I’ll have to take a taxi. I still have the original box.

The printer is just over two years old and has printed 3,372 items:

B&W Documents 1,303
Colour Documents 1,162
A4 Photos 269
4×6 Photos 603
T-Shirt transfers 11
CDs 24

I don’t think that is a lot of use. I’ve been very pleased with its printing up to A4 size. It works well with Lightroom and Photoshop as well as a general-purpose printer and scanner. My only complaints have been about the excessive cost of ink and the fact it claims an ink tank is empty far before it is.

Fortunately it is still in production so there should not be any problems getting it fixed.

I read somewhere that the print head is an expensive item. The Bangkok Frugal Photographer is annoyed.

I checked the Canon (Thailand) web site. They have email support. I sent them this message:

My Canon MP610 shows error U052 “The type of print head is incorrect. Install the correct print head.” I removed and re-installed the print head as the manual advised. The error still shows.

Do I need to bring the printer to you for service? Or can I purchase a replacement print head from you?

Thank you.

Sick Computer

November 17, 2009
Sick Compaq Pressario CQ20

I'm Sick!

Not my computer, fortunately.

A friend bought me her laptop computer today. It’s a 9-month old Compaq Presario CQ20 running Windows XP. She said it was running very slowly, had many windows popping up on the screen and would not type in the Thai language any more.

I started it up and indeed it ran very slowly. The first pop-up I saw was for some shareware wallpaper changer. I asked her if she wanted it and she said she had no idea where it came from. Her English isn’t so good and she always clicked “Yes” when she encountered a dialog box. I disabled it without a problem.

She had an old version of the free AVG virus scanner on the computer. I opened it and tried to update it to the latest version. It complained that it could not find the avg.com domain. I tried going to avg.com in her web browser but it got a DNS error. I tried symantec.com, makers of Norton Anti Virus, and got the same problem.

But it could browse other internet sites successfully. Something had inserted itself in between the browser and the DNS service and was blocking access to anti-malware sites.

From that I knew that the computer was very sick, even though it wasn’t showing other signs of infection other than being slow. I asked if she had the original Windows XP install CDs. No – the shop configured her machine for her and didn’t give her any CDs.

I knew it was beyond my capabilities to fix. I think the best solution is to reformat the hard drive and reinstall Windows from scratch. But I’d have to get Windows install CDs and also find all the proprietary drivers for a discontinued computer.

I called a friend who’s a professional at these things and has all the right tools. He agreed to fix it tonight. There are times when you need an expert.

She said she didn’t have any files on the machine that she needed to save; after using it for nine months. I think I could have saved her files to a CD without infecting it but I am not sure even that is safe.

Of course my friend had no idea what I was talking about. She’d used her computer for surfing the net, email and chatting but had no idea what she was doing. Maybe I worry too much about the safety of my computer but this was a good lesson on the dangers of not worrying enough.

I was a bit worried even having her computer on the same internet connection as mine. I’ve turned off things like Windows File Sharing and run a firewall but I expect it was still busy probing for other computers it could infect. I didn’t even trust that the network connection taskbar icon showed no activity. I bet there are ways of fooling it so a user does not know that her computer is doing bad things on the network behind her back.

 

New Kindle Will Download Books Abroad – But Not in Thailand

October 7, 2009

New Kindle Will Download Books Abroad – NYTimes.com.

I was excited to see this article in the New York Times that there will soon be an international version of the Kindle – available from October 19th.

I checked the Amazon.com site and looked at the country information for Thailand. But I saw the message:

Kindle Not in Thailand

Kindle Not in Thailand

The same is true for Singapore and Malaysia. BUT it will be available in Laos and Cambodia but without wireless access. You use your PC to download then send it to the Kindle via a USB link.

Kindle in Laos

Kindle in Laos

Given the relative wealth of the countries that seems strange. I guess there are technical, legal and licensing issues involved. Since Laos and Cambodia are small markets it is less trouble to negotiate than for larger markets like Thailand.

Maybe they are negotiating with the carriers here but did not have an agreement in place in time.

Even if the Kindle does become available here I would be wise to wait one update cycle to let others work out the kinks. I am tired of being an early adopter.

[picapp src=”7/5/8/0/Amazon_CEO_Jeff_88f3.jpg?adImageId=4705136&imageId=4728420″ width=”463″ height=”594″ /]

How to Clean a Keyboard in a Dishwasher

October 6, 2009

How to Clean a Keyboard in a Dishwasher: 6 steps (with pictures) – wikiHow.

From This

From This

To This

To This

I’d never seen this before and I don’t have a dishwasher so I cannot try it out.

However … I thought that dishwasher detergent is very strong alkaline. I’d try a small amount or a hot water rinse without detergent first.

Some say that Thai fish sauce (nam pla – น้ำปลา) is an excellent all-purpose cleaner, but I don’t believe them.

Have you had any experience with this?

Some of the related WikiHows are hilarious. They make me want to go out and buy a dishwasher.

The photos are from Flickr user Ivo Jansch, http://www.flickr.com/photos/ijansch/sets/72157612566299359/, shared under their Creative Commons license. They were originally used in Jansch’s blog

There’s no perfect way to back up your hard drive – SiliconValley.com

October 5, 2009

There’s no perfect way to back up your hard drive – SiliconValley.com.

Here’s an article from my old home town newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News “The Newspaper of Silicon Valley”. I remember when I arrived in California in the early 1980s how huge the newspaper was – especially the Sunday edition. They’re not doing so well now and have changed ownership but I liked the Mercury News and kept a daily subscription until I left in 2006.

The article describes my situation exactly. The hard drive of my Sony laptop failed without warning in May. I had good backups and did not lose anything when I purchased the replacement Compaq laptop.

But my 500GB Seagate external drive failed soon afterwards. I’d been a bit tardy in restoring files from it to the Compaq and I lost a lot of data. I did not lose any pictures, financial data or music. The drive contained many old documents and videos that are irreplaceable but not vital to my life.

Double failures like that are hard to plan for – I’m not a data centre. Yes I should have made it my highest priority to copy the files once I knew I had only one copy. But I am human and I was learning my new laptop and getting the applications and files I use every day working again.

I could work on recovering it – it has not failed completely. I think it is the USB 2.0 interface that has failed, not the physical drive. Any recovery would be complicated that the whole drive is encrypted with TrueCrypt.

I have a theory that the humid climate here in Bangkok makes electronics more prone to failure. My SanDisk memory card reader refuses to read SD Cards and Memory Sticks – cards with “slide” contacts (I don’t know the technical term). It has no problems with CF cards which have “pin” type contacts. I think it is corrosion.

Troy Wolverton of the Mercury News had a similar experience to mine. He lost two drives in a short period. The article describes his search for another solution.

He settled upon an online backup service called Mozy.com. he paid US$54 a year for unlimited storage. This is a man who casually talks about terabyte drives. Unlimited for him is the amount of data that would have only been associated with large corporations a few years ago.

I have the same problem that my computer, backup drives and CDs are all in the apartment. If we had a fire then I would lose the lot, period. I do not have an office to store stuff.

So an online storage scheme looks appealing. But the Internet is slow here in Thailand so the initial backup could take weeks. Mozy claims that subsequent incremental backups are fast as they only backup the changes.

But Troy raised an important point:

Mozy’s nominal price can understate the service’s actual cost. In some cases, the only way to restore your data from Mozy is to have the company send it to you on DVDs, for which it charges fees that can run up to hundreds of dollars, depending on the amount of data you need to recover.

I looked at the Mozy web site and the marketing pages said nothing about restore! They talk about how easy backup is, but how do I get my files back when the disaster happens?

What’s this “in some cases”? Knowing my luck “some cases” will always be “my case”. I think Troy is lazy not to explain fully.

There are two common scenarios when I would want to restore files:

  1. I need a single file because I have screwed something up or because of a software bug.
  2. I need a whole drive’s worth because of a crash, fire or theft.

It looks like Mozy supports case #1 for no extra charge but  I’d have to pay dearly case #2 to get DVDs by mail. That would take some time in America. I don’t know how long it would take to get to Thailand.

Perhaps that is the Mozy business model – tempt users to put their files on their servers then charge them an arm and a leg to get them back. If so that is very sneaky – Write Only Memory.

The other issue is how many revisions of your files do they keep? I found with my ACDSsee Pro database that my recent backups were as corrupt as the one I was using. This subject gets complicated fast.

I worry that trusting your files to a company you only know by its URL is a bit risky. The company may go out of business or have security breaches. There have been well reported cases of hackers stealing data from financial institutions. I have not heard of thefts from backup companies “in the cloud” but I bet it has happened.

From the Mozy web site:

Founded in 2005, we’re focused on making simple things simple and complex things possible. The good folks who bring you Mozy are located in Pleasant Grove, Utah and are part of Decho Corporation.

I wonder how long their marketing team laboured over that mission statement. Mozy does not claim to make “complex things” (like backup and restore) simple, only possible.

Mozy offer a 2GB account free of charge. For research purposes I will try that for some files and see how it works.

Troy did not offer a comparison of different online backup sites. I don’t know why he chose Mozy.

I want to take pictures, not fuss over all this stuff!

[picapp src=”d/9/d/f/McClatchy_Company_To_7762.jpg?adImageId=5478709&imageId=1875646″ width=”380″ height=”264″ /]

Dell Latitude Z Laptop

October 1, 2009
Dell Latitude Z

Dell Latitude Z

Dell Laptop Tries to Impress Impression Makers – Bits Blog – NYTimes.com.

Dell Latitude Z Product Details – Dell.com.

I don’t think I will ever be the target market for this (from!) $1,999 super-laptop from Dell. I’m happy with what I have. (See how Buddhist I am getting living in Thailand?)

It’s only got a 64GB (solid-state) drive! I’d fill that with pictures in a couple of weeks. I wonder how the performance of a solid-state drive compares with the old rotating sort. I guess it uses the same technology as camera memory cards.

But a fact from the article amazed me. Essentially there are two computers in this thin box. It’s a regular Windows Vista PC but it also has an “instant on” mode.

The software fires up the moment you open the laptop and connects right to a wireless network without Windows.

(Under the hood, it’s Linux running on top of an ARM chip on a mini-motherboard that provides this quick access feature. You’re basically talking about most of the components needed to run an iPhone being hitched to a large battery. So, the computer can run in instant-on mode for days.)

Some users Dell surveyed spent 70 percent of their time working in the instant-on mode. Microsoft is sure to take note of that figure. Windows has turned into a clunky, cup holder.

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when Steve Ballmer heard about this. In the bad old days I am sure Microsoft would not have permitted a Windows bypass like that. It shows how Microsoft’s industry power has declined. Perhaps the anti-trust lawsuits in the US and the EU have done some good.

But it seems a heck of a lot of work for Dell to provide the functionality. I guess long battery life was a major goal, else why not dual-boot the primary processor into the quick start mode?

It seems over engineered to me. A lot more to overheat and go wrong. Perhaps Dell has some former HP engineers working for them. It’s the kind of solution we’d have come up with.

I wonder if they approached Microsoft to provide a quick-boot option in Windows 7. After all they used to claim that IE was so tightly bound into the OS it could never be un-bundled. Couldn’t you construct a minimal boot that loads IE in a few seconds?

But the NY Times to describe Windows, Windows! as a “clunky cup-holder” must have caused Steve’s life insurers to re-evaluate his premiums.

I bet Google wishes it could have got the Chrome OS onto the Latitude Z. I wonder if that sort of application is one of their design goals.

Competition is surely a wonderful thing.

Goodbye, Gobbledygook – About Time Too!

September 14, 2009

See this New York Times article.

I can’t believe that it is a revelation to the PC industry and retailers that technical jargon doesn’t sell. I had just that experience when I bought my laptop in Bangkok earlier this year. The poor salesman was completely confused and could not help at all.

I had two specs – disk space and memory – in mind and a price point – less than 20,000 Baht. Oh yes, and it had to run Windows XP because I didn’t want to mess with Vista. I got what I wanted and the salesman was relieved.

To be fair, other industries are just as confusing. It is hard to sell specific benefits to a general market. I saw a Thai ad for some health drink called Peptein today on the Skytrain. It was full of pseudo-scientific words and formulae that meant zero to me and less than zero to the average Bangkokian. It was just intended to look impressive. They even have a figure on their posters that is meant to resemble Albert Einstein. Amazing.

Skytrain:1115-3132-1116

Peptein Ad on a Skytrain in Bangkok

I mentioned before about how I like David Pogue of the NY Times deflating confusing sales pitches for various electronic products.

Auto makers are not a lot better. But at least their product moves so they can show it to its best advantage on roads the average driver will never encounter.

I don’t think the “Goodbye, Gobbledygook” trend will last in the PC Market. It is too hard to enunciate specific benefits for rapidly but incrementally evolving technology. It’s easier to go back to the fact tag.

Best Buy Fact Tag

Best Buy Fact Tag