Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bluetooth headset in Windows7

I've been meaning to do this for a while. I finally paired my bluetooth headset with my laptop (a Dell XPS M1530). My goal was to be able to make voip phone calls via my laptop to save some money on my cell phone bills - I cut the cord a couple of years ago and don't have a landline at home.

So, I paired my headset (Motorola H670) with my laptop which is running Windows7 Enterprise. The headset was discovered and paired properly, but the driver failed to load. After extensive Bing searches, I discovered the following work-around which worked great for me.

  1. Open the control panel Start->Devices & Printers. My headset showed up with a yellow exlaimation point showing that the driver had not installed automatically.
  2. Right-click on the headset icon and choose Properties. Then, go to the Services tab and make sure Handsfree Telephony and Headset services are both checked
  3. Download the self-extracting zip file from here. Don't worry that it's from a Dell site. You're going to unzip these drivers and manually use them for your headset. It has nothing to do with what type of laptop you're using.
  4. Unzip the folder in the file you just downloaded and cancel out of an installer if it tries to run an installer.
  5. Go back to the Devices panel and right-click on the headset again. This time, right click on the headset, choose Properties and the Hardware tab. At the bottom, click the Properties button. This pops up yet another panel where you want to be on the General tab. Click the Change Settings button and Install/Update the driver. Instead of letting Windows Update search for a driver, browse to the location where you unzipped the drivers above and they should install automatically.
  6. Once you've done this, your headset should show up as an audio device. You might need to reboot for the driver to load properly and the yellow exclaimation point to go away. I also had to go into the settings in my voice application to tell it to use the newly attached headset instead of the built-in microphone and speakers.

I hope this helps someone.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dryer problem solved!

Well, I recently discoverd a problem I was not able to solve using Google. So, I'm typing it up in the hopes it will be indexed and might help someone else.

Two months ago when I moved, I purchased a new Electrolux front-load gas dryer. The first time I used it, I ruined most of the first load of clothes. There was some kind of sticky black residue on the exhaust vent inside the dryer drum. Several plush items had stuck to the vent ripping the soft part of the fabric. I assumed that maybe there had been some sort of sticker over the vent, and that it had melted. Electrolux kindly sent a repair person out who replaced the vent - problem solved. Not.

Shortly thereafter, the black residue returned. I then noticed that a pair of my sons fireproof pajamas had melted. So, I thought perhaps the melted fabric had gotten stuck to the vent. Nothing I tried (Goo Gone, etc.) would remove the residue, but when it got hot it was getting just sticky enough to keep ruining softer clothing items. I went down to Home Depot and purchased a hot air gun (I needed one anyway) and a heavy duty scraping knife. After about 30 minutes of heated labor, I got most of the residue off. When it came away, the dried bits were like hard, black plastic. Problem solved. Oops, not.

Since that time, I've been drying clothes on a cooler temperature, and the clothes seem to be coming out okay. However, the black stuff seems to be slowly coming back. Luckily, using the cooler temperature has meant I'm not ruining clothes anymore. So, today I sat down with Google to see if I could solve my problem. Something else being melted (gum, crayons, candy, starburst, etc.)? Nope. Something in my gas line? Probably not, but not a lot of information available here other than anecdotal information that gas usually burns clean. And, my gas stove and gas furnace don't seem to be having any issues. Hmm, weird.

While I was doing this online sleuthing, I was also doing some laundry. With kids, it seems like I'm always doing laundry. Anyway, I had just finished drying a load of towels and discovered the smoking gun - a half melted dryer sheet. So, for years I have used Kirkland brand (Costco) dryer sheets. I've never had a problem with them. Well, it turns out the new dryer is melting them. Not all of them, or I would have noticed that they're not in the laundry basket when I'm folding clothes. But, some of them are definitely melting. And, when they melt, they've been leaving a hard black plastic residude on the vent inside the drum.

Problem solved.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Alaska Airlines Sees Success in Wi-Fi Trials

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to fly on the one plane on which Alaska was testing their in-flight WiFi service. I also happened to be one of the people that later filled out their online survey that is cited here: Alaska Airlines Sees Success in Wi-Fi Trials

I was able to stream live television, chat, post to Facebook & Twitter, etc. While it was cool, I don't think I would pay that much to use this service. That's where things start to fall apart a bit here. In-flight telephones have been around for something like 20 years. And, in that period of time, I think I've made 2 urgent calls. Why? It's not that I don't use the telephone or appreciate being able to talk to people. But, just because I can do it from an airplane doesn't mean I'm going to pay $15/minute to do it.

I certainly hope these people don't take a really great idea like this and price it such that only people with corporate credit cards can afford to use it. My limit? $5/hour.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wine & Cheese pairing experiment

I've been playing around with building a (simple!) wine and cheese pairing application for Vino2Vino. I wanted it to be something easy and fast, with the main usage scenario being mobile. I've been dog fooding with it lately, using it in grocery stores and in restaurants that actually have a cheese menu.

It's been working well enough that I thought I'd share it with some of my closest friends for testing. Point your mobile browser at http://m.vino2vino.com/pairings/ and give it a shot. I've also tried to embed it here (sorry about the formatting) so that you can try in in a regular web browser. I've read that people want more than just pairing advice, they also want a way to buy the wine or cheese that is recommended. So, I've linked to Wine.com and artisinalcheese.com so that you can get an idea of pricing and availability for actual wines and cheeses.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Why Are iPhone Users Willing to Pay for Content?

This is really quite fascinating.  Just when you think you've got Apple figured out, something new like this comes along.  Everyone is scrambling to write an iPhone application, but many of them can't tell you exactly why - except that they feel this pressing need to do it or be left out.

So, what are your reasons for developing an iPhone application?  Is it because you have an existing customer base and content that lends itself well to display on a phone, and finally there's a popular phone with a relatively simple development environment and an easy way to distribute your application?   Or, is it because you see the iTunes store as a way to market your product to a large audience of iPhone users?  If so, is it for branding and awareness, or is it to make money?

Personally, I have been leaning towards the first reason being the best one, and the marketing and revenue (if your app isn't free) as the icing on the cake.  However, this story brings up an interesting point.  The iPhone may be a perfectly viable place to sell stuff which is otherwise free online.  After all, isn't this what Apple does when they sell TV shows on the iTunes store which you could probably get for free from Hulu, Sling.com, or other content aggregators?

Who knows, maybe an article like this will spawn a whole bunch of new applications which are basically just packaging and re-selling stuff you could easily find online.  And, because iPhone customers have been trained to spend $0.99 without blinking an eye, the developers might actually make some money doing it.

Why Are iPhone Users Willing to Pay for Content? - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com

Sunday, February 22, 2009

2006 Trefethen Viogner

Enjoying a 2006 Trefethen Viognier. Nice complex flavors. Crisp, dry, lightly fruity. Hints of citrus and peach. Very nice medium bodied viognier.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bay Area may be in too deep for mortgage relief - Inside Bay Area

A follow-up to my prior post on how the stimulus plan won't help Bay Area residents much. Now, it sounds like the mortgage relief won't do much to slow down the rate of foreclosures here either.

Bay Area may be in too deep for mortgage relief - Inside Bay Area

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The flaw in stimulus packages

Am I the only one that sees the fundamental flaw in these tax cut stimulus plans? For years now, the Republicans have been doing the same thing that the democrats are now proposing - they base the stimulus packages on AGI, not on need. See: Democrats unveil $825 billion in stimulus spending

By phasing out the tax cuts based on income, they complete ignore the massive differences in cost-of-living across the country. A family making $75,000 in the Bay Area might be on the verge of foreclosure. Similarly, a family making $75,000 in rural Iowa might be living in a 4BR house that they bought with cash. If you mail each of these families a check for $500, who do you think is going to spend it?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Streaming the inauguration

TechCrunch reported that yesterday was the day that live web video streaming failed, with unprecedented demand for the inauguration that exceeded the capabilities of the major CDN's out there.

I'm pleased to say that I watched the entire speech streaming live to my 3G iPhone on my drive in to work. Yes, I realize I was probably breaking several laws in doing this, but trust me, I had my eyes on the road most of the time! I propped my phone up on the instrument cluster and only glanced at it for brief moments of context.

So, how did I do this, and why wasn't I impacted by the problems that faced the major web streaming portals? Well, I was using a Slingbox SOLO at my house that was streaming video directly to a beta version of the SlingPlayer software running on my iPhone. This is a direct stream from my house, over the Internet, and over AT&T's cell phone network directly to my phone. The Internet wasn't choked yesterday, just the major streaming portals. I still had a solid audio/video stream that only glitched twice over the 25 minute speech. Both of these times were during portions of my commute where I know AT&T's network is a bit weak because I sometimes drop voice calls as well. Both times, the player recovered flawlessly and the Slingbox buffering worked well enough that I didn't miss any of the speech.

For those of you that got cut off, you can always watch a replay on Sling.com's special inauguration site. And, next time you want smooth streaming performance, get a Slingbox!