Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gigabyte GA-P35-DS4 Realtek audio vs Gigabyte Dynamic Energy Saver

I have been using the aforementioned motherboard with an Intel Q6600 CPU for a year and a half in a home theater PC environment. I have been mostly happy until now.
That was before I tried to use the Dynamic Energy Saver (DES) utility program that came with it. This program is supposed to reduce energy consumption. While I haven't tried to measure the savings, I noticed clicks and pops in the losslessly compressed classical music I was playing from iTunes. The SPDIF optical output of the motherboard was connected to my Yamaha RX-V2500 receiver . The Realtek drivers in Windows 7 were configured to output at 24 bits / 192 kHz by default.
Fortunately, the audio problem went away after disabling the DES. But this makes the DES less than useful.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

France Télécon Orange / mobicarte fraud

I spent about 19 years in France. Thus, I should have known better than to walk into an agence France Télécom, 189 avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris, on September 8, 2009 to purchase a SIM card with Internet service for my Android cell phone (T-Mobile G1).

The sales person sold me service called Mobicarte, for 15 euros, plus a 25 euro "refill" which was needed to activate the "Internet Imax illimitée" option, which cost 12 euros a month. At least that's the name and price of the option that the sales person wrote on the back of my invoice, and told me to activate over the phone.

When I tried to activate this option over the phone, however, I was told it no longer existed as of August 20th. The new rate was 6 euros for daytime, and 3 euros for night time. Or 9 euros per day ! Since I was going to be there for 14 days, that meant the Internet access would cost me 133 euros, instead of the 12 advertised. On top of that, there was the need to constantly reactivate the service. I was not interested in the service at all at this price. I asked for a refund. But I was denied, on the grounds that the Mobicarte had already refilled. This refill had been activated not by me, but by the salesperson, in order to allow the Internet option to be activated. It was "against France Télécom's policy" to provide any refunds for Mobicartes that were already refilled.

I spent half an hour arguing with the store manager, Mme "Rochai B", who kept arguing it was not in her power to refund - they can only take money, even though the sales person was clearly in error and not aware of the option change ! She agreed to take back the Mobicarte, and write a letter to corporate to request a refund.

The refund, of course, never came. I was also unable to obtain satisfaction by disputing the France Télécom charge on my credit card with American Express, even though the charge was clearly fraudulent, as to this day, France Télécom is still in possession of the Mobicarte, and still has my money.

If I didn't live all the way in California, I would have taken the store to court. As it is, my only recourse is to share my experience with this very shady company, which is unethical and uses deceptive sales tactics, and warn all its potential customers that France Télécom does not keep their promises, even when they are in writing.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Do not call 1-888-333-DISH if you are a Dish network customer

In my previous blog post, I mentioned a technical issue with my dish network 722 receiver. I accidentally dialed 1-888-333-DISH instead of 1-800-333-DISH, which is Dish Network's actual phone number. The number is actually for a different company. The person who answered the phone never identified which one. I kept asking to be transferred to tech support , but all they wanted to talk about was promotions and upgrading me to a "new HR22 receiver" that would not need to be connected to a phone line, and would have free locals. At no point was it mentioned that this was DirecTV service. I kept asking for the tech support phone number, and in the end they told me to call 1-800-333-DISH - Dish Network's actual phone number. They never mentioned that they were from a different company. Don't be fooled.

Dish Network VIP 722 receiver vs KQED ATSC signal

The Echostar VIP 722 receiver is a very nice DVR. It can play and record TV from both over-the-air DTV broadcasts, and from satellite. It has one OTA tuner and two satellite tuners.
One of my most frequently watched channels is PBS, specifically KQED out of San Francisco. The 9.1 subchannel is their HDTV channel.
I have found that on half the broadcasts, the Echostar 722 displays a picture on 9.1, but is unable to decode the sound.

In the process of setting up a software DVR on my HTPC, I found that it can decode the same broadcasts, with sound. This is a problem with the 722 DVR.

I filed a report to Dish network tech support and had the issue escalated to their engineering department. I will update this page if I get a response.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Logitech Webcam Software trouble under Windows 7

Earlier this year, I reported my good experience with the Logitech Quickcam Pro 9000 under Windows Vista x64. Unfortunately, after installing Windows 7 x64 (clean install), my experience is no longer good. The application that comes with the camera causes many problems.
  1. Clicking on "microphone" in LWS causes the application to hang
  2. Cannot bring up "manage audio devices" in Windows control panel . It never comes up
  3. LWS 1.10 installation does not complete (window not responding, hung for hours)
  4. Skype settings window hangs (clicking tools/options in the menu)
  5. Skype won't make calls . An endless dialtone rings even after one tries to terminates the call.
  6. Skype won't exit
  7. LWS.EXE cannot be killed from task manager
  8. uninstalling the LWS application 12.10.1113 solves all of the above problems.
    But of course one can no longer take snapshots without this application installed.
  9. Reinstalling the software does not help. All the problems come back. This is with the latest LWS110_x64.exe package.

I'm hoping that Logitech will provide a solution, and I will update this blog if they do, but so far, I have been out of luck. In the meantime, if you have similar problems, and can live without the Logitech Webcam application, uninstalling it may solve your issues.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Beware of Raidmax Power Supply rebates

I purchased two power supplies from Raidmax at Fry's Electronics, one in 2008, and another in 2009 . In both cases, there was a large ($40) rebate.

While the power supplies have worked fine, I was disappointed not to receive the rebates as expected. Both times, I had to call the company to complain 6 months after the purchase, and twice they claimed to have sent me the check many months before, but I never received it. After they remailed the payment, I received the checks I was owed.

I track my rebates in a special rebate account in Quicken, which is how I noticed those weren't missing. I have bought items with several thousand dollars worth of rebates in the last few years, mostly from Fry's. Raidmax has been the main offender on unpaid rebates, so I thought it was worth sharing my experience with them.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Comcast Internet raises rates on second month of contract without notice

I was one of the early adopters of DSL, during the Pacbell trial in November 1997 . But SBC, and now AT&T, didn't invest enough into their network. I was running the top ADSL speed available through AT&T, which was only 6 Mbits/s down / 768 kbps up. The upstream speed was particularly painful.

In September, I placed an order with Comcast, because they offered 12 Mbits/s down and 2 Mbps up, and there was a 12 months promotion at $24.99, plus $3 for a modem rental, or $27.99.

The Comcast service took longer than expected, because I hadn't had any kind of cable service in my home since I purchased it in 1997. There was a 10 day delay due to construction to run a new cable line from the street into the junction box.
Finally, the service was installed successfully on October 2, and so far, it has worked relatively well. My first October bill was for $27.99 plus tax.
Then came my second November bill. It was for $29.99 plus tax ! Imagine my surprise at this rate hike, having just started a new 12 months promotion.

I called Comcast about this problem. They claimed that only the Internet service was on a contract, but not the cost of the modem rental. It went up from $3 to $5, so I was told. I hadn't received any notice about this whatsoever. I was told that notices were mailed. I am very meticulous about my postal mail, and I know for certain I never received it. It is probably because I was such a new customer and the notices must have been mailed before I was a customer. In other words, I fell through the cracks.

The only thing I was able to get Comcast to accomplish was to refund me $2 for the modem overcharge for November, since I had no notice. But I'm supposed to pay $5/month for the modem rental from December on.

I already have a used identical Motorola SB5100 cable modem on order on ebay for $26.99 including shipping, which is $2.69/month for the next 10 months, vs $3/month for the Comcast rental. I will return Comcast's rented modem before the December bill is due.

When the 12 months contract with Comcast is up, Comcast will want to charge me for basic cable TV service, for which I have no use for, since I use a combination of satellite and OTA antenna for my TV. I don't even have a cable outlet in my living room. I had the Comcast installer run the cable line from directly to my home office upstairs. I have a feeling that I will be getting rid of the Motorola cable modem on October 2, 2010, and hopefully switching to ADSL2/2+, if a local telco operator has upgraded their network by then.

Migrating Yahoo messenger chat archives manually

One thing that the Yahoo messenger program is missing is the ability to import or export chat archives. This can become fairly important if you have a lot of people in your buddy list, as I do over 700. The problem manifests itself when you do a full reinstallation of your Windows operating system, as may sometimes be required. Or if you are migrating from, say, Windows Vista to Windows 7, you may not want to do the in-place upgrade, but instead to a "fresh" install of the OS.

In this example, the system was previously running Windows Vista 32 bits. The archive files were located in :

C:\Windows.old\Users\atoy\Local Settings\VirtualStore\Program Files\Yahoo!\Messenger\Profiles\atoyccb\Archive\Messages

A new OS, Vista 64 bits, was installed. The new archived messages are now in

C:\Users\Charito\AppData\Local\VirtualStore\Program Files (x86)\Yahoo!\Messenger\Profiles\atoyccb\Archive\Messages

You can copy the old archives over by following the following steps :
  • Open a command-prompt window as administrator
  • Copy over the old archives to the new location :

    XCOPY "C:\Windows.old\Users\atoy\Local Settings\VirtualStore\Program Files\Yahoo!\Messenger\Profiles\atoyccb\Archive\Messages\*.*" ">C:\Users\Charito\AppData\Local\VirtualStore\Program Files (x86)\Yahoo!\Messenger\Profiles\atoyccb\Archive\Messages" /S