Archive for the ‘Tips & Tricks’ Category

iPhone 4 Earpiece Troubleshooting

Saturday, December 31st, 2011
Are you having problems with your iPhone earpiece not working? The most typical symptom is you make or receive a call and cannot hear ringing or the other caller through the speaker.  Usually switching to speakerphone will work until you have time to address the issue. There are many forum posts across the web with various solutions, I decided to put a short list together with the actual fix I discovered.
  • Check volume
    • Sometimes the volume is just turned down too low, while this seems like a big duh!, its always good to check this first.  Volume is adjusted while the call is taking place otherwise your ringer or system volume are changed.
  • Reboot
    • Ahhh. the ole windows trick, sometimes this fixes it.
  • Headphone plug
    • Try plugging in headphone, can you hear the caller now?  Occasionally the iPhone will incorrectly think that headphones are plugged in.  Inserting and removing the headphones can sometimes fix this.   Others have various cleaning methods including paperclips to remove junk in the bottom of the port or using an alcohol wetted q-tip.
  • Bluetooth
    • Does it work with bluetooth?
    • Try turning off bluetooth, sometimes the iPhone thinks it is still connected when it is not.
    • This is occasionally caused when the iPhone loses its connection with a bluetooth device.
  • Huff the Earpiece
    • This is my own discovery.  I tried all the above plus doing a full reset.
    • Pucker up,  make like you are going to kiss the earpiece and lightly blow back and forth (lightly!) while your lips remain pressed against the glass.  If the speaker is frozen/jammed, this will free it.
    • My guess it that perspiration causes the internal speaker to get stuck and moving it with air will free it.
    • It seems crazy but it fixed my phone
  • Restore
    • Restoring to factory settings using itunes will usually resolve any issues caused by third party software.
    • Restore, then don’t restore your own data and test the phone.
  • Apple Store
    • If you are under warranty, time to take it back to an Apple store
    • Out of warranty?  Did you buy with MasterCard or Amex?  Both double your warranty on many electronic devices.  Check with your card provider to see what additional coverage you may have.
Good luck!

Heytell vs Voxer

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Heytell and Voxer are two popular PTT (push to talk apps) that offer walkie talkie like service for various  smartphones.  Anyone that has used a real walkie talkie or is familiar with Nextel knows how useful this feature can be.  While text messaging is great in meetings, it’s terrible for driving, not to mention illegal in most places.  Sending someone a quick voice message is often preferable to placing a more time consuming call.  I have compared the two apps, and below is a list of features available in each.

Feature Heytell Voxer
 Walkie Talkie  √  √
 Text Messaging
 Picture Messaging
 Video Chat
 Location Sharing  √
 Group Messaging  $  √
 Privacy Settings (limit contact to friends only, FOF, all)  √
 Block Users  √
 Facebook Integration
 Works on Wifi
 Works on 3G
 No Ads $

√=included feature $=additional in-app purchase

With the above features in mind, sometimes there is more to an app than just cold hard specs.  Each has its pluses and minuses in my opinion.

Lets start with Heytell.  This is an app that focuses just on the walkie talkie feature.  And it does it well.  It is no frills and has a very intuitive user interface.  I’d single handedly recommend it if it employed streaming like Voxer does.  Instead you must record your message, then wait for it to be transmitted.  This is much like the days of the internet before Youtube began streaming video.  Lots of waiting for no good reason.

Voxer on the other hand tries to do many things at once.  You can of course voice chat, but you can also text and send picture messages.  This makes the app much more flexible, but the fact is the additional features are available as core components on just about any smartphone.  Then there is the thing that makes Voxer great.  As soon as you start talking, the other person hears your voice.  The streaming function works very well.  Then there is the UI.  Its not very intuitive, and it really strays from the iPhone motif.  I don’t expect every app to look like iOS native, but then again, I’d prefer it not look completely out of place.  Then there is the dagger to the heart.  Voxer has no privacy settings.  Its like AIM 1.0.  Anyone can (and does!) message you.  Voxer allows you to block the user, but you still get an annoying popup that makes you think someone you know has contacted you.  In my limited use, I got several chat popups from random strangers.  This alone made me abandon the app.   The blocking feature is very tedious, I believe there are four or five actions required to block that users after the initial badge pops up.

I’m sure Voxer will address the privacy issues, but ideally I’d be even more happy if Heytell added streaming support.  Heytell is just more intuitive and tries to do one thing well instead of a bunch of stuff you don’t want or need.  Both will get the job done, and since both are free, its worth checking either of them out!

New Machine – Blue Screen Fun

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008
Tiger Direct Biostar Combo

Tiger Direct Biostar Combo

I recently picked up a Biostar MCP6P M2+ motherboard with an Athlon X2 4600+ to replace an aging Dell Dimension 2400 desktop I have been using as my main machine.  I snagged a combo at Tigerdirect that included everything I needed to build a new PC for about $110 after coupon shenanigans and NO REBATES!  In fact the deal was so good, I decided to get another one for a family member.  Good thing too.  Not wanting to deal with the hassle of re-installing windows or even doing a repair, I found a guide that showed a few tricks to remove PCI, USB and Video drivers, enabling me to move my copy of windows over.

The first move went great.  A few clicks and a copy of the drive and the machine was up and working.  No blue screen, no anything.  I was amazed.  The second pc, my personal one did not go so well.  BSOD on first boot.  It would boot into safe mode, but not regular mode.  I was perplexed.  I went back and tried to make sure I removed all drivers from the previous image and tried again.  Same thing.  The windows error wasn’t exactly great. “Stop 0x0000007E”  Thanks Microsoft!!!

A search on google yeilded a gem.  I tried all the suggestions, even the MS kb entries, then, losing hope, I saw post 41 then went back to 40.  It turns out that intelppm.sys was causing the problem.  This was sheer luck, but whatever, I was happy to find the answer.  Once I knew which driver was causing the problem, I could search for a reason to satisfy my curiosity and to make sure I wasn’t going to run into other problems.

I found Dan White’s Blog Entry on the 0x0000007E error .  After reading it, it all made sense.  My XP install was originally on a Dell board with an Intel P4 cpu and now I had an AMD.  The other PC that was upgraded was originally an Athlon 800.  I’m amazed I was able to find the answer, I was set to start removing one driver at a time, out of 250ish.  Yeah, I’m that hard headed.

Remote Backups

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Elephant Drive and offer free remote storage. Elephant seems to be unlimited during their beta, and Box is free for 1 gig.


Thursday, March 9th, 2006


Freemind is a neat little idea mapping tool written in java. I’ve been “mapping” out ideas in Open Office’s Draw but this tool seems superior.

Gmail Loader

Monday, March 6th, 2006


GMail Loader is a nice little utility that can be used to load mbox email files into Gmail. Mark Lyon the author also has some links to utilities that can convert other types of mail boxes. I am thinking quite hard about moving all my email to google. The interface is just so nice and clean. Its quite fast also.

A new way to target spyware? StartGuard…

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006


StartGuard claims to have a new way to block spyware and other forms of malware. It’s based on a concept of a firewall for programs. I’m trying it out on a few of my hosts. I’ve lost confidence in Ad-Aware as it failed to find a keystroke logger (that AOL Spyware Blocker found!). The basic version is free.

Disk Full? Find out who is hogging the space!

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

Disk Detective

Seems like as disks get bigger and bigger, its harder to find what is taking up so much space. As you can see, the drive above is getting pretty full. I found a nice app called Disk Detective . It graphs disk usage by directory and allows drill down. Best of all, its Freeware!

Being S.M.A.R.T , HDD error management.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

Is my Seagate Doomed?

This week I had an old IBM 30GB Deskstar fail. After over five years of service (original purchase date was August 14, 2000), one would expect such a failure, however this one caught me by surprise. Almost all of my drive failures have been well expected due to various noises. Usually clicking or bearing noise. This one was great until the last minute. It only progressively got louder, but not to the point of being out of line. In trying to fix the drive I happened upon some interesting utilities that could have prevented this failure.

The first is Passmark’s Diskcheckup. A nice utility that is free for personal use. For years I had seen the S.M.A.R.T feature in the BIOS of most of the PC’s I own. I never thought to really dig up what it was for. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology. It enables a PC to alert a user of potential problems that may lead to failure. While Diskcheckup is a nice utility for spot checking, it fails to address the real issue of monitoring. Through some more poking around I was able to find a nice package call Smartmontools on Sourceforge.

Smartmontools has two parts, a daemon that monitors your drives and a control program. There are two reasons I like Smartmontools, one the price, its free! Two, it works on just about any platform, windows, linux, osx, and a few others I don’t use. Setup is as straight forward as can be for a standard linux/Unix app. It compiled without hassle on my old Redhat 7.2 box. I also put it on my Dell/XP box, however I have not tinkered with setup a conf file to email me when there is a problem, this will be a todo for later as I have doubts about it being able to email our without Cygwin installed.
While the Deskstar is toast, its message will not be forgotten. I have been procrastinating upgrading my again linux box as I’m very happy with its current configuration (i.e. everything I need works) and I don’t have time to re-setup everything. The current drive in Harley (the linux box) is a Seagate ST380021A. Using smartctl -a /dev/hda we get this info:

/usr/local/sbin/smartctl -a /dev/hda
smartctl version 5.33 [i686-redhat-linux-gnu] Copyright (C) 2002-4 Bruce Allen
Home page is

Device Model: ST380021A
Serial Number: 3HV0EPJB
Firmware Version: 3.10
User Capacity: 80,026,361,856 bytes
Device is: In smartctl database [for details use: -P show]
ATA Version is: 5
ATA Standard is: Exact ATA specification draft version not indicated
Local Time is: Tue Feb 21 16:32:59 2006 EST
SMART support is: Available – device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled

SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: PASSED

General SMART Values:
Offline data collection status: (0x82) Offline data collection activity
was completed without error.
Auto Offline Data Collection: Enabled.
Self-test execution status: ( 0) The previous self-test routine completed
without error or no self-test has ever
been run.
Total time to complete Offline
data collection: ( 422) seconds.
Offline data collection
capabilities: (0x1b) SMART execute Offline immediate.
Auto Offline data collection on/off support.
Suspend Offline collection upon new
Offline surface scan supported.
Self-test supported.
No Conveyance Self-test supported.
No Selective Self-test supported.
SMART capabilities: (0x0003) Saves SMART data before entering
power-saving mode.
Supports SMART auto save timer.
Error logging capability: (0x01) Error logging supported.
No General Purpose Logging support.
Short self-test routine
recommended polling time: ( 1) minutes.
Extended self-test routine
recommended polling time: ( 57) minutes.

SMART Attributes Data Structure revision number: 10
Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:
1 Raw_Read_Error_Rate 0x000f 074 063 034 Pre-fail Always – 129773489
3 Spin_Up_Time 0x0003 075 070 000 Pre-fail Always – 0
4 Start_Stop_Count 0x0032 100 100 020 Old_age Always – 3
5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct 0x0033 100 100 036 Pre-fail Always – 0
7 Seek_Error_Rate 0x000f 084 060 030 Pre-fail Always – 297452400
9 Power_On_Hours 0x0032 066 066 000 Old_age Always – 30054
10 Spin_Retry_Count 0x0013 100 100 097 Pre-fail Always – 0
12 Power_Cycle_Count 0x0032 100 100 020 Old_age Always – 109
194 Temperature_Celsius 0x0022 039 049 000 Old_age Always – 39
195 Hardware_ECC_Recovered 0x001a 074 063 000 Old_age Always – 129773489
197 Current_Pending_Sector 0x0012 100 100 000 Old_age Always – 0
198 Offline_Uncorrectable 0x0010 100 100 000 Old_age Offline – 0
199 UDMA_CRC_Error_Count 0x003e 200 200 000 Old_age Always – 0
200 Multi_Zone_Error_Rate 0x0000 100 253 000 Old_age Offline – 0
202 TA_Increase_Count 0x0032 100 253 000 Old_age Always – 0

SMART Error Log Version: 1
No Errors Logged

SMART Self-test log structure revision number 1
Num Test_Description Status Remaining LifeTime(hours) LBA_of_first_error
# 1 Extended offline Completed without error 00% 30054

The parameter of concern is Power_On_Hours :

9 Power_On_Hours 0x0032 066 066 000 Old_age Always – 30054

Doing some simple math, 30054/24/365=3.43… So 3.4 years of use. Looking at the most popular figure published MTBF by Seagate for the ST380021A we have 600,000 hours or 68.4 years! . However MTBF is very misleading. Service life is a much better spec, and although Seagate does not publish a Service Life spec, most consumer drives are around five years. So with 1.6 years before impeding doom, its time to start getting serious about finding a replacement and watching this one before its too late. I have a fairly good backup scheme, ok its not great, but I won’t lose everything. I am just looking to avoid downtime.

Another nice looking utility for windows is ActiveSmart . However at $24.95, its a bit more than Smartmontools, but setup is much easier on a windows box and has some nice notification features.

So in summary, will S.M.A.R.T fix all your data whoes? No, but it can alert you to errors that your OS may not. It may just be your warning to do that one last backup.