Category: Computing Tips

What has happened about the faulty firmware issue for the PS3

Article

Sony releases PS3 firmware update to fix last week’s fiasco | Tech Culture – CNET News

Instructions – From the horse’s mouth

Sony PlayStation

Manually updating your PS3 with the firmware

Safe Mode on PS3

My Comments

Sony PS3 games console

Sony PS3 games console – latest firmware should be 4.46

Previously, when Sony rolled out version 4.45 of the PlayStation 3 operating software, this update had caused many PS3s not to boot properly for interactive use. The situation had been described where the consoles were effectively “bricked” and Sony had to immediately pull the update from their PS3 software-update servers.

Now they have released version 4.46 of this firmware and made it available also as a manual-update file so you can recover a PS3 that had suffered this fate. When this situation had occurred with the PS3, the version-4.45 software went in to an “endless-loop” during startup thus not reaching the standard “XMB” start menu.

Fortunately, Sony had set up a “safe mode” for the PS3 in a similar way to what Microsoft, Apple and others have offered as a diagnostic startup option for their regular-computer operating systems. Here, this places the equipment in a known state with minimum software and hardware overhead that allows one to perform diagnostic or recovery work on faulty equipment.

In this case, you can load the firmware from a USB memory key and Sony have provided instructions on how to go about this, such as which folder to position the firmware file on the USB memory key. Here, you would need to use your desktop or laptop computer to download the firmware file to the USB memory key in the known location (\PS3\UPDATE).

Here they also detailed how to place the PS3 in to the aforementioned “safe mode” so you can load the firmware from the USB memory key. As well, you would have to connect the game controller to the PS3 via a USB cable while it is in this mode and be sure to select the “System Update” option on the menu that pops up to start this update without destroying your data and settings.

As well, I would suggest that you check that the version of the firmware on your PS3 is indeed 4.46 or newer in order to make sure that your console is behaving in a reliable manner.

An issue that could be raised regarding field-updatable firmware especially for consumer-electronics devices is providing a fail-safe update process with a rollback mechanism. This is more of an issue when there are situations like bugs that missed the quality-control process; failed download / install processes or, at worst, malware written in to field-updated firmware.

Here, the previous firmware could be kept in a separate section of flash memory or secondary storage, as well as the ability for the device to start in to safe mode thus providing the option for software rollback if the software didn’t start to the normal user interface.  Similarly, the standard user interface could be used as a way to facilitate this kind of software rollback, which can come in handy with bugs that creep up during normal operation. This is similar to what has been achieved with most desktop operating systems like Microsoft Windows, where the operating system creates “system restore points” at the start of software install or update processes and is able to roll back to these points if the install or update becomes dysfunctional.

What we are starting to see is that devices like games consoles, smart TVs and printers are becoming as sophisticated as regular computers and entering a point where the same kind of irregularities could creep up on them.

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What to do if the App Store gives your Mac the Dreaded Beach Ball

Article

Tackle a hung App Store update in OS X | MacFixIt – CNET Reviews

My Comments

You have that Macintosh computer running with Apple’s App Store as your preferred download spot for programs. But you notice that the Mac is not being its usual self while you are running an App Store update or download. It starts to show that dreaded “beach ball” for ever during the update process while nothing is happening. This means that the App Store client application is hanging and effectively slowing down the rest of your system.

The main problem that can lead to this typically are about the App Store working with corrupted files in its folders as what happens with any computer programs. This encompasses where the installation packages are held after they are downloaded as well as any temporary files that the App Store creates. The folders will exist on the “Macintosh HD” secondary storage location which is the main storage location for all of your Mac’s programs and data.

Here, when you notice this behaviour, you would have to “force-quit” the App Store application. Either this is done by selecting “Force Quit” from the Apple menu or pressing CommandOptionEsc on the keyboard. You could also “force quit” from the Dock by using Option-Right-Click on the unresponsive application’s icon. After you have done this, the Mac should be more stable by now.

Dealing with the corrupted data

Installation package folder

Then you would have to use Finder to clear out the App Store Updates folder which is at Macintosh HD/Library/Updates. This is where the software update or download packages are held by the App Store before being installed. Once you clear this folder out, it means that the App Store application can draw down fresh “known-to-be-good” install packages from the iTunes App Store.

Temporary and “work” files created by the App Store

Another location that you may have to clear out are the App Store Caches. These represent the temporary files that the App Store application creates as it goes about its work.

Here, you run Terminal and type in: “open $TMPDIR../C” to expose the “cache” folders where data that the App Store needs for speedy operation exists. In this window, look for folders that begin with “com.apple.appstore” and remove these folders.

You also go back to Terminal and type in “open $TMPDIR../T” to expose the temporary-file folders. Here, you look for the folders that begin with “com.apple.appstore” and remove them.

The App Store will take longer to start as it re-builds the cache and temporary files with the fresh “known-to-be-good” data.

Permissions fix for the system resources

This is another area that could house corrupt data and could generally affect your Mac’s stability. It is because the information about the permissions required by the applications to use system resources is kept as data on the Macintosh HD.

Here, you use the Disk Utility to do this task. You select the Macintosh HD in this program’s sidebar and click “Repair Permissions” in the “First Aid” tab to start it repairing any corrupt system-permissions data.

Tips to avoid this problem

If you are using a Wi-Fi wireless LAN connection or a mobile-broadband connection, and you intend to do a lengthy App Store update, make sure that you are getting a consistently strong signal from the wireless network. This is because a poor or inconsistent wireless signal could lead to an increased risk of failed downloads.

As well, it may be a good idea to have your MacBook connected to external power while you are doing a lengthy update. This avoids the risk of a failed download occurring because the battery is on the way out.

Here, you could confine the App Store software updates to your home or workplace so you can be sure of a smooth update scenario.

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A router or other network device on the way out could be what is causing flaky network or Internet activity

Article

Yes, Routers Do Die – SmallNetBuilder

My comments

A typical situation that may make you think that the router at the “edge” of your home network is dead is simply no connection to network or Internet resources. The same can also hold true for network connectivity devices like wireless access points, range extenders or HomePlug powerline devices. It is infact the first point of elimination by some people when they are dealing with an Internet connection that has started to play up.

In some cases, you may be dealing with the wall-wart power supply that may have just died out, usually due to a power spike. You may be able to check this out if you have either a multimeter or a spare working power supply with the same voltage and current output that belonged to other equipment to compare with.

On the other hand, erratic Internet or network activity like Wi-Fi clients taking longer than usual to associate with the router’s access point or Internet activity becoming “off again, on again” can indicate equipment that is on the way out. Similarly, the indicator lights on the device could he glowing in a static manner or flashing regularly rather than flickering. As well, you may have had to reset the router too many times either through power-cycling it or pressing the “reset” button.

In the case of network equipment that may serve a particular device, area or network segment, the behaviour may be noticed by network client devices connected to the equipment concerned.

For example, you may have had stellar Wi-Fi network performance in an area of your premises served by a Wi-Fi access point but it’s all gone downhill lately even though you could get good performance out of areas served by other Wi-Fi access points in the same premises. Or you may find things going wrong with the HomePlug AV powerline network segment when it work so smoothly before.

The increased unreliability with this kind of equipment is very similar to that point in a car’s life when it starts living at the mechanic’s workshop and drills a nice big hole in your wallet because of the increased amount of repair work that is needed.

It may crop up more readily with older or poorly-built low-end consumer equipment or in a house or neighbourhood where the mains power supply may be erratic. The erratic power supply can also be brought about due to circuit breakers including earth-leakage circuit breakers (safety switches) frequently tripping or fuses blowing frequently, or simply many whitegoods in operation at the same time.

The key issue to notice is that when a piece of network equipment in the network starts to cause the network connection or Internet service to become increasing unreliable, it could be an indicator to think of newer equipment and budget for better quality equipment.

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Tips to avoid those mistakes that can easily happen with tablet and ultraportable computers in the living room

As the small computer form factors such as the tablets and ultraportables (Ultrabooks, etc) become popular, there is room to make mistakes with using them in the living room. This environment is where you are most likely to be when you are tired and wanting to relax and, in a lot of cases, you may be having a bit to drink.

These mistakes can end up with your equipment being out of action for a significant amount of time and could, at worst, cause irreparable damage. It is although the manufacturers are understanding the realities associated with the portable equipment and are making it more rugged.

Avoiding the risk of that device being sat on

A similarly-coloured iPad can be at risk of being sat on when on the couch

A similarly-coloured iPad can be at risk of being sat on when on the couch

For example, you could be using that iPad while lounging on the couch and you need to get up to visit the kitchen or bathroom or answer the door. Then you put that iPad on the couch as you get up. This can be a risky move for the device if one hasn’t got their eyes peeled for these devices.

In the living room, this can easily happen with most of us when we are tired or have had a bit too much to drink. It can be exacerbated with devices that have sleeves, wraps or other accessories that could blend in easily with the scatter cushions and other upholstery that exists at your house. Then you could end up easily sitting on that iPad that is on the couch as you find somewhere comfortable to sit and this can cause damage to that device.

A good idea to avoid this situation would be to place the portable computing device on the coffee table or side table when you want to get up from that chair or sofa. Personally, I would make this easier by having side tables that have enough room to rest at least one 10” tablet like an iPad or avoiding the temptation to forego the coffee table or similar tables in the name of minimalist living.

The book-style cover offers extra protection for tablets in the living room

As well, the covers that you can get for the iPad and other tablet computers that open and close like a book also work well in keeping spilt drinks from damaging these computers and are a must when you use them in the lounge room. Here, you simply close these covers when you put the computer on that table.

Similarly, decorating the accessory covers or the backs of the tablet or ultraportable computer devices in an individual manner can allow one to make a device easily identifiable from the others especially when there are many of these in a common area. I would find this more important with popular devices like the iPad which use a consistent style and interface and also find this important where a particular brand or model of this device is favoured by most of your family or friends. I made a reference to this practice when I reviewed the Toshiba Satellite L730 which was available in white.

Reducing the risk of drinks being spilt in to that ultraportable computer

As well, ultraportable notebook computers can be at risk of drinks being spilt in to them when they are left open on the coffee table. This is more so with drinks that are in tall containers like bottles, tumblers or wine glasses.

Here, a good practice would be to close up these computers when they are not in use there. In the case of the detachable-keyboard “hybrid” convertible, these computers could be assembled before you close them up to keep drinks out of them.

Further on, a laptop wrap may also work wonders in protecting these computers from being damaged by drink spillage on the coffee table.

Avoiding the romantic candlelight mistake when using notebook computers

Candles and portable computers - a bad mix

Candles and portable computers – a bad mix

As for laptops, notebooks and similar computers, the area behind the screen can be a death trap for these computers when it comes to using those candles to set up that romantic environment. This is a greater risk with wide candles including tea-lights rather than the tall “taper-style” candles that are typically used with a candlestick and the risk is greatly exacerbated when you swing the laptop lid outwards.

This was highlighted by an incident that happened with some close friends where the husband was downloading pictures from a digital camera on to his laptop and his wife, who just so loves that romantic candlelit look, set up some candles at his work table. There happened to be a small candle just behind the computer in the blind space behind the screen and this scorched the display unit in that computer.

The blind spot that exists behind a laptop and is risky when it comes to candles

The blind spot that exists behind a laptop and is risky when it comes to candles

In these situations, check that there are no candles behind the computer before you open it up and keep an eye on those candles that are on your work table. Especially pay attention to the blind spot behind your computer and make sure any candles in that area are fully visible.

It may be better to make sure that if you want to set up those candles around the laptop, that any lit candles stay on the side of the computer or towards the centre of the dining table.

Conclusion

By reading this, you can avoid placing your equipment at risk of damage when you use it in that lounge area whether you are working or relaxing.

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IHG to raise the bar for free Internet access by frequent-lodger-club members

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

IHG Hotels

Product site (IHG Rewards Club)

Press Release

My Comments

Just previously, I have covered the issue of paying for Internet access at the big-name hotels and mentioned that it is worth checking for accommodation packages and frequent-lodger programs that include Internet access as part of the package. As part of citing the “Business Sense” accommodation package that the Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto hotel were running, I learnt further from this hotel and the hotel chain’s PR agency about revisions that were underway for their Priority Club Rewards program.

Here, they are revising this program to include Internet access at the participating hotels for all members. Unlike some of these programs that include this benefit but limit it to a requirement that you stay in the hotel overnight or rent meeting space at that hotel before you can use Internet service, the IHG Rewards Club program allows members to benefit from the Internet service unconditionally. This means that even if they just attend an event, visit the restaurant or bar for something to eat or drink or see a guest who is staying at that hotel, they can use the wireless Internet service there.

This ability to use the Internet-access independent of whether you are staying at the hotel answers a key reality with people who use portable computing equipment. Here, one could be using the bar or restaurant as a meeting place or “second office” for activities like showing data that you have drawn down from work to show a colleague or client; or simply catching up with emails and similar online activity while away from the office.

The feature is intended to be rolled out gradually with Elite-level members being the first to benefit from July 2013, with all members benefiting from 2014. The IHG Rewards plan also is intended to work across all of the IHG hotel brands ranging from the premium Intercontinental hotels through the Crowne Plaza to the cheaper Holiday Inn places.

What I see of this is that it could be a chance for the hospitality industry to look at the realities concerning how people are using portable computer equipment on the property and work better towards improving the tariffs and packages for this reality.

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Setting up Apple iChat for Facebook Chat and Messaging

Windows users have been able to use the Facebook Messenger as a desktop option for gaining access to Facebook’s chat and messaging features. Similarly, users of the iOS and Android mobile platforms have benefited from having access to the Facebook Messenger app as a dedicated path to this same service.

But how can you gain full-time access to the Facebook chat and messaging functionality on your Apple Macintosh without the need to open your Web browser? You can when you use the iChat software that is integrated with the Mac OS X operating system.

Here, the Mac has to be equipped with iChat AV 3 or later which is part of the operating system from 10.4 Tiger to 10.7 Lion. It will provide an “always-live” messaging and “green-dot” presence feature that you would expect with the Web-driven Facebook messaging interface.

  1. To set this up, you click on the “Preferences” item in the iChat menu.
  2. Click on the “Accounts” option in this window, then click the + icon at the bottom of this window as if you are adding a new iChat account.
  3. Select “Jabber” as the account type.
  4. Supply the credentials as:
    Screen Name: <Your_Facebook_User_Name>@chat.facebook.com
    Password:<Your_Facebook_Password>
  5. For the Server Options, make sure that “Automatically find server name and port” option is checked. If this doesn’t work, you may have to fill in “chat.facebook.com” in the Name and 5222 in the Port for the Server details
  6. Then click Done to add the account.

For this acoount to work automatically, you have to select the “Enable this account” and “Log in Automatically” options for it to log in and show you as online when you use your Mac. Here, you will see the list of all the Facebook Friends who are currently online with that green dot.

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Outgrowing that NAS–what can you do

Seagate GoFlex Home NAS - an example of an entry-level NAS

Seagate GoFlex Home single-disk network-attached storage – an example of an entry-level NAS

As you outgrow an existing network-attached storage device that isn’t upgradeable, you may think of buying a newer higher-capacity NAS.

The older NAS is a secondary network data storage

This is something I have done lately as I outgrew the Western Digital MyBook World Edition’s 1Tb capacity and received a 3Tb Seagate GoFlex Home NAS as a birthday gift. Here, I was able to move my “work” data and system backups to the GoFlex while running the My Book World Edition as a DLNA Media Server for my photos and music. I could run either of these units as part of shifting data between two computers or run the My Book also as a data store for drivers, anti-virus, service packs and similar computer-service needs.

Spreading data storage across multiple units

Here, you don’t need to get rid of the older NAS, but run it as a secondary unit. For example, you could simply move most of the data like backup data or work-in-progress data off the older unit to the newer unit and run the older unit as a media server or simple data drop-off point. This can come in handy if you have to shift user-created data from that old half-dead laptop to that shiny new fast laptop before you retire it, or keep a collection of drivers and service packs for when you have to install new computers.

Separating business and personal data

In some cases, you could move business data to the newer NAS and have personal data on the older unit so you can segment the units easily for tax or corporate reimbursement purposes.

Your children and their data

The same situation can also be a boon for your teenage or young-adult child where they can keep their data and file-based media on the older NAS. Here, it then makes it easier for them to shift their data out with them when they grow their wings and leave the family nest. Here, they can use this device with a DLNA-compliant media player to play out their music at their new location as well as operating it as extra / backup storage space for their computer.

Media storage in another location

Similarly, you may be responsible for another small home network such as one at your vacation or seasonal home; or the “family house”. Here, the older network-attached storage unit could serve as the hub of a DLNA-based network media setup for this location with similar media content, especially music and video, at that location.

Auxiliary data storage at your small business

The small NAS that has been supplanted by your larger or more flexible unit can work as an auxiliary storage service for your small business. An example of this is to keep a small-business NAS working the mission-critical data with high security while you have the small NAS doing tasks such as being a DLNA media server in the context of a smart TV or Blu-Ray player providing cost-effective digital signage for your business.

Conclusion

Therefore it doesn’t mean that you have to retire that small one-disk network-attached-storage device when you outgrow it and buy a newer better unit.

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You may not have to pay extra for Internet access at that business hotel in some situations

Introduction

Rydges Melbourne

Some accommodations plans offered by hotels like this one do include wireless Internet access

A common gripe I have heard from travellers in relation to Internet access at hotels, especially the “big-time” hotel chains is that they charge too much for Internet access rather than providing it as a complimentary service.

There are two ways you can benefit from this access without having to pay extra.

The business-focused accommodation deal

Some hotels offer a business-focused deal which includes at least accommodation, breakfast served in the main restaurant along with the Internet access for the duration of your stay. Most often, some of these packages are offered through the weekdays and, in some cases, may be cheaper that the standard accommodation-only rate. Different properties may throw in extras like reduced business-centre costs, or a rebate on your food or drink bill.

This is in a similar vein to how some of the accommodation+breakfast deals may cost slightly more than the accommodation-only deals yet you have the breakfast which would cost significantly more as part of the package.

Examples of these include:

It is also worth paying attention to the club-floor or concierge-floor programs that some of these hotels offer which will have complimentary or reduced-price Internet access. These premium-priced programs are related to a cluster of rooms on a particular floor where you also have access to an exclusive-access lounge, complimentary food and drinks amongst other things depending on the program.

That frequent-lodger program that the hotel offers

Some of the hotels who run a frequent-lodger program may offer cheaper or inclusive Internet access for all members of the program. An example of this is the Marriott Rewards program which provides inclusive Internet access to guests checking in using this plan. Another example is the PriorityGUEST program which reduces the standard property-specific Internet access costs by half for members who check in at a Rydges, QT or Art Series hotel with their PriorityGUEST card.

Conclusion

It makes sense to spend extra time trawling through Websites and similar material offered by a big-name hotel chain or other hotel that charges for Internet access and look for the accommodation packages or frequent-lodger programs that integrate access to this service.

It is worth knowing that any particular package or promotion that I mention in this article may be subject to change.

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How should I assess apps from that app store

Windows 8 Store

Windows Store – one of the desktop app stores starting to surface

There is an Increasing number of app stores coming to the fore for each of the mobile and regular computing environments where you can buy and / or download software for your computing device. Some of these also provide for after-the-fact purchasing of add-on options for the software through the software’s user interface.

The situation that affects app stores

But there is a real danger that the app stores are becoming like the bulletin boards and online services that existed before the Internet and the software-download sites that existed in the early days of the Internet. This is where these locations were filled with substandard software that, in some cases, you come across software with very limited functionality that borders on useless but you to pay the developer before you can see a fully-functional package that you can enjoy using.

In the case of the app stores, the substandard software uses a poor-quality user interface or underperforms in a way where the device suffers a short battery life or performs sluggishly. There have been situations where the apps have been used for delivering malware especially through those app stores where there isn’t any real control on the software that is delivered. The limited functionality software also surfaces in these app stores more so with games that require you to buy options or virtual currency in order for you to enjoy playing them.

Even an app store that implements an approval process can be overwhelmed with software pending approval, which can lead to their standards being reduced in order to clear the backlog or increase the software quantity.

Identifying the good apps

IMDB Android

IMDB movie app for Android – one of the good app-store apps

But how do you identify a good app in those app stores and be sure you aren’t downloading a lemon?

  • One sign to look for is if the app has been put in the spotlight. Typically, the app may be positioned as an “editor’s choice” or “spotlight” app for its class or brought up front on the app store’s user interface. Blogs, newsletters and the like operated by the app store may cite the software in the “top picks” articles.
  • In some cases, if you hear your relatives and friends rave on about that app or you see many people in that train play that “time-waster” game on their smartphone or tablet, this could be the sign of a good app.
    You may also find that it’s a good idea to ask a computer-wise friend or relative about the apps you want on your device or get a second opinion on that app.
  • Similarly, the app would have some qualitative reviews in its “product-review” section. Here, you look for repeated reports of particular problems or notice many “copycat” or simplistic favourable comments, which could lead to a questionable app.
  • If you are looking for a “front-end” app for an online service, look for those apps that are published by the service themselves. This also holds true of apps that are linked with product and service brands. Typically these apps are announced through the brand’s advertising channels and the brands are wanting to defend their reputation.
    For example, I would prefer that Apple iOS users who are running newer versions of this operating system that didn’t come with YouTube pick up the Google YouTube app from the iTunes App Store. Similarly, when I was writing my article about the sports scoreboard apps, I recommended those apps commissioned by the sports leagues / codes themselves or the sports broadcasters.
  • The version number of the app may give away clues to the revision cycle that is taking place. Where there is a lot of revision taking place leading to a multi-point number like 1.3.1 typically indicates that there is a level of quality control going on. There may be some exceptions to the rule especially if the app or game is well-written from the start and this may apply with some of the casual games which are based on a known algorithm.
  • It may also be worth looking at what other software the app developer has offered to the app store. Here, look for the kind of reviews the software has as well as whether the software has ever been featured.
  • Also be aware of apps that require permission to use functions or resources not to do with its stated job. These can be about spyware or cause the phone or computer to underperform.
    Here, it may be worth checking the “blurb” about the software in the app store if it is requiring the use of the cameras or the location sensor because some of these sensors are used beyond the obvious. For example, some programs implement the GPS sensor as a distance-measuring tool or an increasing number of programs use the cameras for their machine-vision needs.

In some situations, cutting back on the number of apps on your device can allow it to perform smoothly, and you may have to be ready to uninstall some apps if you find them “swamping” your computer, tablet or smartphone.

Once you know how to sort the wheat from the chaff at your computing platform’s app store, you are in a good position to make sure that the devices that work on that platform are working smoothly.

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Assistance Journal–Getting the hang of Skype before your overseas-travelling child flies out

Just last night, I received a Facebook message from a close friend of mine regarding practising with Skype. Here daughter was about to fly out to the UK as part of an exchange-student programme that she enrolled in and she knew that I was able to provide her with computer assistance as required.

Here, I recommended that this close friend and her daughter set up for Skype so they can communicate with each other for free using this tool while she was in the UK. This included using the video-telephony feature so that they can see each other and see the overseas environment that they are in from afar.

This friend had completed Skype sessions with other relatives after setting up this program. Then I exchanged the contact details and integrated her details in my Skype contact list. After a long chat session, I was able to get her familiar with the user interface and have her practise the basic tasks. One of the test runs that was done was for the mother to have her laptop connected to the home network and the daughter’s laptop connected to a 3G modem so as to simulate the arrangement that would be used in the UK.

It is infact a good idea to do a “dry-run” with Skype if someone is heading overseas for a significant amount of time. This is more important if you are not confident with this program or with computers at all or you have set up a new computer or home network.

Similarly if you purchase a Smart TV or video peripheral that has Skype integrated and you then buy the camera accessory, you could use these “dry runs” to get yourself familiar with the Skype implementation in the equipment.

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