27″ RCA F27650 Xbox-compatible TV for sale (sold)

Update: Sold.

Details follow. If I don’t get a response from here or the Facebook crowd, this is going on uw.forsale and perhaps Craigslist in Kitchener.

Model: RCA F27650, 27″ CRT TV
Details: TV has been in use for approximately 4 years. Has component, S-Video, and three composite inputs. Also has a 1/8″ stereo headphone jack for personal listening use. Works perfectly (I’m only selling because I have a new TV coming soon) and ideal for student use. A special feature is the “VPORT” capability: it’s a native component video and stereo audio connection to your Xbox, with an optional digital 5.1 output – basically, you can hook up an Xbox using the VPORT and another component device. It’s absolutely perfect for Xbox Media Center, which I’d be glad to help you set up if you’re interested. The purchase price includes the M/M VPORT cable, which you can’t find in retail anymore.

Another nice addition is the “Guide Plus” TV information system – it’s a virtual program guide that tells you what’s coming up next on TV, as well as additional information about the show. This is free and works perfectly with standard Rogers analog cable.
Included: TV, original universal remote, manual, VPORT cable (direct Xbox to TV).
Terms: Local pickup only, near University/Bridge St. intersection. $100 or best offer.

How to check your Rogers cable modem signal

I know a lot of people in Southwestern Ontario have Rogers for their broadband ISP, and sometimes it’s extremely useful to be able to diagnose problems with your cable modem signal if you’ve been experiencing intermittent connection issues. Usually the phone support technicians won’t do anything based on this information, since they have the ability to read signal levels from the call center, but showing the levels to a field technician might assist in figuring out the issue.

In order to follow these instructions, you’ll need a Motorola SB5100-series modem provided by Rogers. These modems are the standard ones deployed for all tiers, with the exception of Ultra Lite; a few people I’ve talked to have had the old Terayon “black box” or “blue shark fin” models installed when they order the lower tier of service.

If you have Rogers Home Phone service, you’ll likely have a Scientific Atlanta voice+Ethernet gateway, which as far as I’m aware doesn’t work with this configuration page. You may want to check out the Rogers forums on dslreports.com for more information.

Your modem also must be active: this means that the first four lights (going from top to bottom) should be green, and the fifth light should be either solid amber or blinking amber. The last light (Standby) should be off. If your modem isn’t synchronized, you won’t be able to access the status page.

Configuration URL
The URL for the SB5100 configuration and status page is From this page, you can access the Signal and Logs tabs, which give most of the relevant information for the modem.

Signal Tab
In the signal tab, you’ll want to look for the following values:

  • Downstream Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR): This number should be over 30 dB ideally; values under 30 indicate a less than quality connection, although it’s possible to have a number as low as 25 here with a working connection.
  • Downstream Power Level: The power level is one of the more important factors in having a quality connection. This scale goes from -15 dB to +15 dB, with numbers closer to 0 dB being better. If this number is under -12 or over +12, you may have connection issues.
  • Upstream Power Level: This value should be as low as possible, with values above 50 indicating connection quality loss. Anything up to 55 should be functional, but many connections will cut out completely above 57 dBmV.

A snapshot of my current signal readings:
Cable Modem Signal Levels

The Logs tab will have information on the latest disconnects that the modem has experienced. Entries with a date of 1970-01-01 are errors that occurred before the modem received the latest timestamp information from the provider.

Vista impressions, day two

The Good:

  • When you go to rename a file with the Hide filename extensions for known files option enabled, the extension is not selected by default. This makes renaming a folder to the same name as a file much easier.
  • The Screen Clipping tool replaces HyperSnap for all my screen capturing needs.
  • Search support is comparable to OS X, which means that it’s actually pretty decent.
  • Driver recognition for Ethernet cards out of the box is much improved.

The bad, so far: When right-clicking in a folder details view, it seems completely random whether you’re going to hit the “do something with this file/folder” menu, or the “actions for the current folder” menu. This is due to the “selection bars” that reach across all columns. Maybe I’ll find a better method of creating new folders/files that doesn’t require this step?

Sprung MacBook key

I was sitting down last night at my system when the O letter key on my new MacBook keyboard flipped off. I’d noticed it was on a slight angle compared to the other keys, but the keycap and little plastic attachment sprung back in my face. I wasn’t even typing on it at the time – rather, I was using a USB keyboard.

For the record, nothing looks broken, but I’m not much one for shoving this little plastic piece into a tiny slot – there’s a severe risk of snapping something. I figured I’d take it down to the CampusTechShop at UW and have the on-duty tech take a look at it.

Apparently, he’s on vacation until next week, so I headed over to the CHIP (twice in two days) where I was told that it’d be a five-day turnaround time before someone managed to repair the system.

I’ve opted to head over to Carbon Computing tomorrow and see if their on-site tech can deal with this. If all else fails, it won’t be me breaking it.

Vista, reinstalled: first impressions

Now that I have a copy of Vista Business available to play around with, as well as the requisite KVM for my VX2025wm to work properly, I figured I’d get things installed and post my first impressions.

Acquiring the Software

If you’re a UW student, like I mentioned before, you can check out the MSDNAA version of Windows Vista Business at the CHIP (basement of the MC, room 1052.) You’ll need a valid WatCard to check out the CD’s on 24-hour loan, as well as a QUEST/ADS login to access the various software packages available from UW’s IST department and get the serial number.

Vista comes on five CD-R’s (yes, they’re just CD-R’s with the UW and MSDNAA logos on them), with no option for a DVD at this point. You’re only able to get one serial number issued, which is allegedly good for installation on two of your workstations – after that, you’ve got to call in and reactivate. Instead of slogging through the five-CD install and swapping out discs, I obtained a DVD image (LRMCFRE_EN_DVD.iso) and burned it to a blank. You could also combine the contents of CD’s 1-5 and the bootsector from CD1 to homebrew your own DVD, but that would have been counterproductive for me.

Installation was relatively painless, although the “analyzing system performance” phase immediately after install is sort of useless, especially considering there’ll be updated video drivers on the first run to Windows Update.

Tasks to Perform

For my installation, I performed the following tasks immediately after the usual updates and drivers were installed:

  • Changed the Start Menu preferences: one, two, three, four.
  • Start/Run/secpol.msc, expand Local Policies/Security Options. In Security Options, set “User Account Control: Switch to the secure desktop when prompting for elevation” to Disabled to avoid the annoying flash when User Account Control activates a window.

    Yes, this means that I’m living with UAC turned on; it’s much less annoying without the Secure Desktop turning my screen black and making me lose my place in an application.

  • If you’re going to install a network printer, leave UAC on and do it. There’s a bug in the Add Network Printer wizard that prevents installation of the driver if UAC is off.
  • Changed the settings for SMB file sharing for Xbox Media Center: in secpol.msc, expand Local Policies/Security Options, then set “Network security: LAN Manager authentication level” to “Send LM & NTLM – use NTLMv2 session security if negotiated”. OS X 10.4.9 seems to have fixed the NTLMv2 problem, but Xbox Media Center sure hasn’t.

Month of MySpace bugs: apply cluebat

From Slashdot – (disclaimer: I hate MySpace)

An anonymous reader passed us a link to PC World’s coverage of the upcoming Month of MySpace bugs. Organized by a pair of wiseacre hackers tired of the ‘Month of X Bugs’, they are set up to ‘highlight the monoculture-style danger of extremely popular websites.’ Though it’s supposed to be funny, outside security analysts have apparently been consulted on the project.

“Though the project, which launches on April 1, has all the appearance of a practical joke one well-known hacker said he’d been contacted by the Month of MySpace team with legitimate security questions. ‘Those guys and I have been keeping in touch,’ said Robert Hansen, chief executive of Sectheory.com. ‘It’s funny but it’s not a joke.'”

The article follows with a pretty good anonymous comment summing up my reasons against the site:

Status: OLD

Severity: Major

Reproducible: Always

Description: MySpace is filled to the brim with whiny, middle-class, suburbanite, emo kids whining about how emo their life is and how they like to listen to emo music while cutting themselves.

Solution: Delete Myspace.

The problem with MySpace is twofold, in my opinion:

  1. Its demographic consists of susceptible people. Susceptible, in this case, means “people likely to click the flashing banners.” It also means that anything with a vaguely social networking appeal will have a profound impact on these users, and as such, a modified login screen wouldn’t look too out of place.
  2. Its technical issues are vast, already. How many times has the site been exploited so far? Allowing raw HTML is a recipe for disaster, and combined with its userbase (who largely wouldn’t understand the concept behind closing tags) you have potential for thirty actual, bona fide bugs. Cross site scripting? Stealing cookies? Falsifying login fields? Installing spyware? Local denial of service exploits? They’re all there.

Unlike the Month of Apple Bugs, where the orchestrators had to reach for third-party applications to achieve a month’s work of exploits, this exposé has the potential to affect over a hundred million spambot accounts, and maybe 20 million “legitimate” ones.

Start up your firewalls and HOSTS file blocking, people…

MSDNAA Vista, Access, OneNote, Project, InfoPath, Visio 2007 available for UW students

I checked the e-Academy MSDNAA site for the University of Waterloo and it seems like they’ve updated their software selections available, so Vista and all the other UW-licensed apps are available. Anyone with a UWDir login should be able to access the site. However, there are a few caveats with the available files:

  • Vista apparently is only available in 5-CD format, and you have to check the CD’s out at the CHIP (MC 1052.) I’m probably going to head down there tomorrow and see if the DVD version’s available for checkout – since it’s the same DVD for any version of Vista, I’d just rip and burn an ISO. I also wouldn’t look forward to swapping in discs during the installation; last time I did that, it was a 35-floppy install of Office 4.0.
  • Access and the other Office-like applications can be downloaded. Do this using Internet Explorer, because Firefox doesn’t handle the download process correctly.

The complete list of software that’s available follows: Continue reading

Visit to the Fruit Stand and Sony Store

On Wednesday, I ended up going to Sherway Gardens for the afternoon, where the main attraction is an actual Apple Store. Said store is also known as the Fruit Stand or Fruit Stall, similar to how the “Apple/Command” key on Mac keyboards is commonly called “Fruit.” A few points of interest:

  • When you get in, you’re accosted by no less than five people. The initial object of my first trick was to look at iPod accessories, which are located about 2/3 of the way back in the store. Five salespeople asked if we required any assistance on the way there.
  • All iPod accessories in the Fruit Stand are overpriced, and anyone buying a case for their freaking Shuffle needs to seriously reconsider what they’re doing with their disposable income.
  • Those MacBook Pro systems are incredibly nice looking. Maybe next time a laptop purchase is needed…
  • That Mac Pro system is also incredibly nice looking, especially paired with the 30″ Apple Cinema Display.
  • You know, my 4th gen iPod/20GB is getting kind of scratched, not to mention it’s having syncing issues and freezes sometimes.
  • Why yes, sir, I *would* like to purchase a new 80GB black iPod video right this minute!

So, after damning myself repeatedly because of my incredible consumer-whoreism tendencies, I walked out of there with a new device that will help kill time on the bus. I’m so conflicted, because on one hand the 20GB black and white unit still technically works for what I need it to… but on the other hand, it’s so shiny and will play videos of Jack Bauer gettin’ some terrorists and it’ll hold all my music and… stop it.

I’m going to have to put in some extra hours for work for this one, at least.

The other interesting expedition today was to the Sony Store. I am of the opinion that Sony makes a certain number of things with really decent quality:

  1. Televisions
  2. Camcorders
  3. Headphones (as long as they’re more than $20)
  4. Decent-looking PC displays (well, at least the Trinitrons)

Unfortunately, the company is currently on this huge “Full HD” or “True HD 1080” kick, which basically means that their really expensive TV’s will support a native resolution of 1980×1020 running progressively (60fps.) This is due to their launch of the PS3, which doesn’t have an internal scaler, so your games run at either standard-def or 1080p; if your TV doesn’t support 1080p, guess what mode you’re running in?

What was mildly amusing that the TV shown in the front of their store had an infomercial going on about Full HD 1080p, blah blah blah… until I realized it was a 42″ Grand Wega LCD projection model, which has a native resolution of 720p and doesn’t support the Full HD variety.

I also took a look at the PS3 on display in the store, which failed to impress. (Hint: show the XMB interface and perhaps flOw; both of those things look pretty. I don’t want to see NBA ’07.)

Achievement unlocked

One of the threads in the Awful Archives that really should have gone further – and made a “gold” rating – was the Achievement Unlocked photoshop thread. The principle of the thread was to insert the Xbox 360 “Achievement Unlocked” logo over a picture.

I had a grand scheme for creating a few more of these, but I figured I’d post the template for the images to get some ideas circulating.

First of all, you’ll need the Xbox 360 “Convection” font used in the user interface. The font can be found as a part of the Media Center Extender software download; it’s called ConvectionRegular.ttf. I used WinRAR to extract the XboxMCE05Lite-enu.exe, then used WinRAR again to extract the contents of XboxMCE05.exe. The font is located in the mcrdinstaller directory in the setup archive.

For the lazy among you, grab the font here: ConvectionRegular.zip

To install the Convection font, click Start > Run and type in fonts. Drag the ConvectionRegular.ttf to the Fonts window, and wait for the progress bar.

I’ve provided “raw” PNG files of the achievement text, both as a single line (how it’s actually displayed on the 360) and as two lines. I used Fireworks 8 to edit them, but any program capable of reading PNG files should be able to process them.

Here’s the results:

Achievement unlocked
(Download raw PNG)

Achievement unlocked (two lines)
(Download raw PNG)

Update 3/10/2007: Per Dave’s comment, here’s the two St. David’s-related achievement images, as well as some UW and Laurier related ones…
Continue reading