Archive for the 'Hardware' category

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The other day at a friend’s house I could not get onto their wireless network.  The MacBook and iPhone were connecting without problems so I finally Googled for “windows is unable to connect to the selected network.”  The first link on Google’s search results led to a very helpful page titled “Windows is unable to connect to the selected network.”

It turns out that Windows has a bug where it assumes that all the wireless access points it detects use open authentication.  For some reason my friend’s router was using shared authentication.

To solve this problem I did the following.

  1. Double-click on the wireless icon windows-wireless  in the windows system tray (normally in the bottom right hand corner).  A Wireless Network Connection Status window will pop up.
  2. Click on the Properties button in the Wireless Network Connection Status window.  A Wireless Network Connection Properties window will pop up.
  3. Click on the Wireless Networks tab in the Wireless Network Connection Properties window.
  4. Click on the Add… button to enter in the information about the wireless network with the shared authentication.  A Wireless network properties window will pop up.
    1. Enter the Network Name (SSID).  This is the name of the network you tried to connect to before getting the message that Windows cannot connect.
    2. Set the Network Authentication to Shared.
    3. Uncheck the box that says “The key is provided for me automatically.”
    4. If there is a key enter it in the Network Key and Confirm Network Key boxes.
    5. Press the OK button.
  5. Now either Windows will automatically connect to this newly configured wireless network or you can rescan and connect manually.

The above steps should work.  It worked for my laptop and the Windows laptop of the owner of this wireless network. 🙂


Acer Problems Resolved via BBB

 | January 5, 2009 2:09 PM

Many months ago I complained about my horrible experience buying an Acer laptop with Best Buy.  I took my complaint to the Better Business Bureau and Best Buy finally responded by offering me a $50 gift card but refused to let me return the faulty laptop.  Not surprisingly someone else had a terrible experience with Acer and Best Buy and was treated pretty poorly until a big third party, in this case the San Jose Mercury News’ Action Line, assisted.

Acer 22" Widescreen LCD Display

Acer 22

I was also having problems with an Acer LCD monitor I purchased from Office Depot.  After complaining to the Better Business Bureau Office Depot offered to let me return it.  When I realized the problem had to do with my laptop’s graphic cards (only the MacBook can properly drive it) I kept the monitor.  I appreciate Office Depot’s gracious response, unlike Best Buy’s.

All of these experiences have led me to to these conclusions.

  1. Buy big ticket computer items only from Apple or Costco.
  2. If you are having a problem with a retailer seek help via the Better Business Bureau.

LCD or Plasma HDTV

 | December 6, 2008 10:29 AM

I am trying to decide whether to buy an LCD or Plasma HDTV.

According to Consumer Reports:

Plasma TV Advantages:

  • virtually unlimited viewing angle
  • deeper blacks and better contrast
  • no motion blur

LCD TV Advantages:

  • lighter
  • brighter images
  • most have no reflections from screen
  • no risk of burn-in
  • use less power

Costco has a sale on Panasonic TV’s plus free shipping this weekend.  I am considering the Panasonic 42″ 720P Plasma which gets rave reviews.

The reasons I would like to buy this TV:

  1. It is a good price.
  2. Apparently it shows SDTV (standard definition) pretty well and has good sound.
  3. It has great reviews.
  4. Since it is from Costco if I don’t like it I can return it within 90 days.

The reasons I am hesistating are:

  1. Its power consumption is 385 watts.  A comparable 42″ 1080p LCD TV uses 250 watts and a 46″ 1080p LCD TV uses 287 watts.  If you assume you watch TV 8 hours a day (the average for American families) then at $0.225 per kWh that works out to about $20 per month to run the Plasma TV and $13 per month to run the LCD TV.  Over a year that is about an $84 difference and in two years that is about $160 which is about the price difference between this Plasma TV and a comparable 42″ 1080p LCD TV.  And how can a tree hugger like me buy something that uses more power?
  2. It is not 1080p and it seems like one not does want to buy technology that could quickly become obsolete.
  3. I think I want a 46″. 🙂

I think I convinced myself not to buy Plasma.


Which cordless phone?

 | December 4, 2008 3:41 PM

This is kind of stupid but I can’t decide which cordless phone to keep.  On Black Friday I bought the Uniden 1560-2 for $30 at Home Depot.  It is a simple two handset system.  Then the next day Fry’s had the Panasonic KX-TG9344T on sale for $70, a fancier four handset system.

The reasons to buy the Uniden 1560-2.

  • name each handset, e.g. “Frank”
  • bigger buttons
  • program caller ID not to show your area code
  • a little easier to enter text because you can switch between capital or not capital letters mode
  • caller ID displays faster than on Panasonic

The reasons to buy the Panasonic KX-TG9344T.

  • maybe more reliable
  • maybe better sound
  • uses NiMH AAA batteries instead of those big clunky ones but must be charged in Panasonic charger
  • screen is nicer
  • phonebook automatically shared w/ all handsets, w/ Uniden you have to manually command one handset to copy its contacts to another handset
  • can use headset
  • can block calls
  • programmable night mode where handset will not ring during that time
  • talking caller ID option
  • uses phonebook to give better caller ID info
  • alarm option

I thought I was going to go with the Panasonic because someone complained they heard static when I called them with the Uniden.  But later when I called them the second time with the Panasonic they complained I heard static.

Everyone sounds good to me when I listen on any of the phones but I am starting to think that the quality of the outgoing voice is not as good, possibly because the upstream bandwidth is smaller than the downstream bandwidth.

Which phone should I choose?


Flickering Acer Monitor

 | July 23, 2008 2:53 AM

After many days of internal debate I finally decided to keep my newly bought Acer 22″ LCD.  Though I had some reluctance about the Acer brand because my Acer laptop had to be mailed to Acer repair twice the laptop is working fine now and the consumer reviews of this LCD are good.  Unfortunately five days after the fourteen day return period expired my monitor started exhibiting strange flickering and I can not figure out how to get rid of it.

A call to technical support proved unhelpful.  They suggested I send it in but the cost of shipping a monitor is rather prohibitive.

Lessons learned

  1. don’t buy Acer
  2. buy from somewhere that has longer than a fourteen day return policy, like Costco
  3. spend more on a better brand, like HP or Samsung

Tomato Firmware |

 | July 8, 2008 11:06 AM


My Linksys WRT54G v2 was failing repeatedly.  I finally gave it away on Freecycle and replaced it with a Linksys WRT54G v4 that I picked up via Freecycle.  That one though experienced the same problems.

Linksys Customer SupportAfter numerous times on the phone with customer support and many hours lost I finally suggested to customer support that maybe the router was having problems with my VPN connection.  It seemed the router failed within a few hours after I disconnected from the VPN.  Customer support had no idea, in fact they put me on hold and after twenty minutes I hung up.

The person who took my old Linksys WRT54G told me he had replaced the Linksys firmware with the Tomato Firmware.  In desperation I tried it too.  And after more than a week and no connection problems I am convinced that Tomato is a beautiful thing.  In fact we planted some tomato plants in celebration.


Seeing Wide

 | July 2, 2008 6:57 PM

Acer 22\Today I bought an Acer 22″ Widescreen LCD display from Office Depot.  It was $300 but hopefully after rebate it will be $220 which seemed like a pretty good price.

I upgraded from my Dell 19″ to the Acer 22″ because I decided to use the Dell 19″ for my kids’ computer.

So far the Acer seems nice.  The reviews on Amazon were quite good and it’s rated about 4.5/5 stars.  There is this strange problem that when I come out of sleep on my ThinkPad T60p it only shows a part of the screen but I am hoping that is particular to the ThinkPad’s video drivers and not an issue with the monitor.

Part of me does wonder if I should get the HP W2408H 24″ Widescreen LCD Monitor.  24″ is not that much bigger than 22″ so but the HP seems so much more glossy and pretty.  What do you think?

Some reviews of this monitor.

These are the specifications of my current monitor, the Dell 1800FP.


Crucial 2GB PC2-5300 667MHz 200-pin SODIMM DDR2 Laptop MemoryMy physical memory is starting to fail but it’s a good time to buy laptop memory. 🙂

I bought two 2 GB sticks which after rebate will hopefully work out to about $31 each. Previously I bought a Crucial 1 GB stick for about $12.

Now my MacBook and ThinkPad T60p have 3 GB each. And I don’t notice any difference at all in performance except maybe Firefox doesn’t bring Windows to its knees as quickly because of its ravenous memory consumption.

By the way the instructions for installing memory on the MacBook weren’t that bad, only three screws to replace though pushing in the memory sticks felt a little weird since you can’t see where they’re going.

On the ThinkPad T60p there are five screws to remove and then you have to lift off the palm rest. But the memory brackets pop up nicely and are easy to use. This blog article has nice photos of how to do it.

Share Sunglasses

 | May 2, 2008 3:40 PM

If someone is looking to buy me an early Christmas present these sunglasses would fit the bill. They can be used to take photos and also have a built in MP3 player. Sunglasses

Actually I wouldn’t want these because the camera sounds quite poor and I am sure the MP3 player isn’t great. Still the concept is pretty cool.

For Eyes That Have Seen It All, There’s a Way to Prove It
Published: May 1, 2008

These sunglasses from have a 1.3-megapixel digital camera embedded in the frame can snap a picture of 1,280 by 1,024 pixels.


Sony just released an 11″ OLED TV and apparently the picture is stunning. On top of that OLED is razor thin and uses far less power. Only drawback, it costs a lot right now and manufacturers currently can’t reliably build large OLED TV’s. Still I have been hearing about this technology since a student of mine was doing research on it at MIT almost ten years ago.

I guess I will be waiting another ten years before I get my new 50″ OLED TV.

State of the Art
TV Images to Dazzle the Jaded
Published: May 1, 2008

What has an 11-inch screen, offers breathtaking pictures and costs $2,500? It’s the new TV from Sony.