Microwave Biscuit

Web 2.0 Stuff/Dump

Posted in Technology by microwavebiscuit on March 9, 2008

Yes I haven’t posted in forever. Yes this blog is very close to being abandoned however today I’m inclined to post about some of the cool web 2.0 stuff I am using.

First, my new favorite – Last.fm – allows you to track your music listening habits, find other people who like the same kind of music and find new bands that you might have never heard of.

Next, Xpenser – I’m trying to simplify my expense reports and submissions which is a royal pain in the ass. This may help.

Another new fav – Jott which allows you to call a 866 number (toll free) and leave up to a 30 second message for yourself which will then be transcribed and e-mail’d to you. I use this a lot when traveling (i.e parked my car at A21, don’t forget to…).

The Good, The Bad and The XBOX 360

Posted in Technology by microwavebiscuit on November 4, 2007

To start this post I’ll recap my gaming console purchases:

Many years ago I bought a PlayStation 1 (original? old skool?) and it worked forever. In fact, it still works. When the PS2 came out I upgraded and it worked and worked (and still works). When it came time to purchase a 3rd generation console I thought long and hard about it. The PS3 is awfully cool and sexy and whatnot but way spendy. It also didn’t come out on time. So, I ended up buying a XBOX 360.

I have had it for a little less than a year. Last week I got the dreaded red ring of death when trying to play a game. I looked online and went through the various steps in determining that the system is borked. So, today I called India (XBOX support) and they walked me through the troubleshooting steps again (after first going through the troubleshooting steps with a computer voice prompt thingy) and they agree that it is in fact fubard.

Being that my XBOX is under warranty they are sending me a pre-paid box to ship it back to them in and they will repair it. Expected turn around time is 3-4 weeks. So, I guess I’m relatively pleased that my XBOX isn’t a pricey door-stop and that it will be fixed. On the flip side, it shouldn’t be broken in the first place. I wonder how well the PS3 is doing in terms of longevity. If it’s anything like my PS1, PS2, etc. I’m sure it will run forever.

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Triple Screen Notebook: Acme Laptop Does a Three-Way, Unfolds Into Obscenely Wide Triple Screen

Posted in Technology by microwavebiscuit on October 16, 2007

Via: Triple Screen Notebook: Acme Laptop Does a Three-Way, Unfolds Into Obscenely Wide Triple Screen

I’d love to have one of these on a middle seat of a cross country flight. Wonder if they make 3M privacy screens for all 3 of them….

Interesting Headlines

Posted in General, Technology by microwavebiscuit on October 12, 2007

Looking at My Yahoo! this morning and saw this:


Looking at the time of the articles, it seems as if the offer is going up…

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Buying mom a laptop

Posted in Technology by microwavebiscuit on October 1, 2007

My mother has asked me to assist her with the purchase of a new laptop so yesterday we went to the local BestBuy to scope out prospective machines. My choice was a clearance Gateway for $349 which I think is perfect for what she needs to do (surf the web, e-mail and play solitaire) however she was leery of it because it wasn’t plugged in and she couldn’t mess with it. So, we went up a notch to another Gateway which was $699 and was roughly twice as nice (double the RAM, double the HD, Writes DVD – which she’ll never do). I’ve bought quite a few Gateway PC’s over the years and they all have worked reasonably well. I still have a Pentium 90 with 64 Meg of RAM that would probably turn on if I asked it to. She wasn’t sold however so we kept looking. We found a virtually identical HP laptop in terms of specs and price but it had some “pretty” patterns etched into the lid of the laptop. SOLD! Pretty beat out all of the other factors. I have had good experiences with HP PC’s as well but just more with Gateway. Apparently that doesn’t matter – pretty swirly things convinced my mother to make a purchase. Hear that Gateway?

I guess being that they are all probably made in the same factory in China it doesn’t matter so much and it just comes down to luck. I also guess I could have gotten her a better deal by shopping online but being that it’s from BestBuy if it’s broken she might be able to take it back at her local BestBuy.

Mac Mini Disassembly

Posted in apple, Technology by microwavebiscuit on July 4, 2007

I have a Mac Mini that I bought a few years ago and I use it primarily for email, web, and iTunes. I don’t do much “heavy” computing on it but I do enjoy using it. Occasionally it locks up and is usually fixed by turning it off for several hours. I was convinced that the hard drive was going bad as sometimes when I boot it up I can’t “find” the drive. It’s been generally behaving for the last few months so I started pretending it would all be ok. Fortunately I do regular nightly backups via SuperDuper (great software for the Mac!) as yesterday the drive just quit. I had taken apart the Mini before to upgrade the RAM chip in it so I knew it was possible to get it apart and hopefully replace the drive. I also had a spare 80 Gig notebook hard drive in my office so I began the process.

In order to separate the case you need to basically pry it apart. The recommended tool is a putty knife. You slide the putty knife in between the case and the bottom and slowly “pop” the case. Once you have the case in two pieces, the hard part begins. Part of the Mini’s charm is that it’s so small but this makes doing a task like replacing a drive extremely difficult. First, you need to remove the DVD drive. There are 4 screws on the sides of it connecting it to a plastic harness. Once all 4 screws are out, slide the DVD Drive forward carefully to disconnect it. I figured once I had the DVD drive out I could easily get the hard disk out. Wrong! In order to get the disk out, I needed to completely dissasemble the plastic harness that mounts to the motherboard. Again, 4 screws attach the harness to the motherboard. After removing the 4 screws, you need to carefully lift out the harness. I had to also unplug the power button motherboard connector as the cables were running through the harness. Now I had the harness detached from the motherboard. At this point you can easily get at 2 of the 4 screws holding the hard drive in place, however the other 2 were not so easy. Next step was to remove the fan from the harness. I didn’t need to unplug the fan but I did need to unscrew it (4 screws) in order to gain access to the hard drive mounting screws behind it. Finally I got all 4 hard disk screws out and could remove it. It is just a standard notebook type disk and as I said, I had a spare. I plugged the new disk in, and in reverse order put everything back together.

Once I got everything mostly back together it was time to see if I had created a doorstop/paperweight or if I had managed to get the new drive in correctly. I booted up the machine using the OSX CD I have. Everything worked. After booting up using the CD I copied my backup image over the new drive and now everything is great. I still haven’t put the case back together as I left it apart until I was sure that I had everything working correctly. Once I do that, I should be good as new!

The new home (for my PC) is finally ready

Posted in Technology by microwavebiscuit on June 17, 2007

After last night’s debacle with a busted power supply and case issues I have finally gotten it all back together again. I went back and got a new power supply to replace the defective one I bought. It was remarkably easy and I give big props to Fry’s for making the return process painless. I ended up getting a different power supply then the one I had picked out last night as I was enticed when I went to pick out the replacement by a power supply that was “modular”. Instead of having a mountain of cables coming out of it, there are plugs to plug in the cable sets that you need. This way I’m not cluttering up my case with PCI Express cables that I’ll never use and I only have 2 SATA drives so I don’t need 4 connectors. Anyway, it went back together fairly easily and I’m very happy with my purchases.

When did buying a power supply become such a big deal anyway? It seems that when I built my first PC all of the cases you could buy had built-in power supplies (and they were all one size and beige) and the only reason you’d ever buy a new power supply is if one went bad. If you needed a new one, there wasn’t much choice in them and they were about $20. At some point it changed such that no cases have power supplies and when you go to buy one they have everything from 300 Watt to 1200 Watt now. They also cost quite a bit more than $20.

While I was looking at the power supplies I wandered over and looked at the motherboards, processors, etc too. I managed to pull myself away before I ended up getting some quad-core monstrosity some $800 later. And really, if you’re going to spend the dough on a quad-core processor and kick-ass motherboard combo, you may as well spring for the dual SLI PCI Express video cards. Once you go that route, it really only makes sense to buy 8 Gigs of RAM as well. If you’ve got 8 Gigs of RAM, you’d better also get another TB of disk space to go along with it. I’m guessing I could have dropped about 3K on stuff that I really don’t need all while trying to return a defective power supply. This is why I brought my wife with me last night when I was going to buy the new case on power supply! Fortunately I was able to exercise some self control and left with only a replacement power supply.

Case Picture

Posted in Technology by microwavebiscuit on June 17, 2007


Originally uploaded by phoch_98.

Here’s a picture of what my new case/power supply situation is. Isn’t that lovely?

My PC has a new home but it’s kinda broken

Posted in Technology by microwavebiscuit on June 17, 2007

Tonight I went to Fry’s and bought a new case and a new power supply. Both made by Antec as I’ve had very good luck with Antec stuff over the years. The new case is a P180B ( link ) and it’s very awesome. My old case was also an Antec but I bought the cheapest one I could find because when I built this PC I was doing it on the cheap. In any case, it was time to upgrade. Putting together an existing PC in a new case is always a challenge because inevitably I hook something up incorrectly. After I put it all back together again it booted up right away (yeah Ubuntu!) but then shut down almost instantly. I tried to restart it but it just kept quiting with no warning. I checked all of the cables over again to make sure everything was hooked up correctly and it still kept failing. By process of elimination I figured it was the new power supply. Sure enough I plugged in the old power supply and everything works great. Mind you it took about 45 minutes to reroute all of the cables and whatnot to get my old power supply in place. The other thing is that the old power supply’s cables aren’t really long enough to support this new giant tower I’ve purchased so I have to leave the PC in a very crazy state with the case all open and the power supply just resting on the open case. Looks like I’m off to Fry’s again tomorrow to return it and get a new one.

TiVo Awarded Patent For Password You Can’t Hack

Posted in Technology by microwavebiscuit on May 12, 2007

According to: Slashdot

Tivo has a password encryption/decryption scheme that is next to impossible to hack. I give it 2 weeks until some high-schooler has it all figured out and posted on the net.