Seagate FreeAgent Freezes on BIOS screen

So in the past, I’ve always had to tell my parents to start deleting stuff on the fileshare, since free space is quickly depleted mainly due to the fact it was only a 160GB drive. Most of my computers at home are ancient. I mean I can’t even watch 720p HD trailers on my desktop here.

Anyway, I thought it was time to upgrade the drive, however given that this machine is probably over 6 years old, it didn’t have SATA connectors. I figured I could probably pick up an external drive for about the same cost as a SATA PCI card + hard drive. The external drive would also be much easier to move to a different machine if mine died again.

I picked up a Seagate FreeAgent Desk 1.0TB External USB2.0 that was on sale at Staples. The drive’s actually quite neat. The Seagate Manager software that comes with the drive has a bunch of cool options such as telling the drive to automatically go into power-saving mode after a certain amount of inactivity. There’s also some security/encryption setting which I have yet to play with.

Anyway, everything was going fine until I needed to reboot. It just froze on the BIOS/POST screen after detecting all my hard drives. At first I couldn’t figure out what the problem was, but when it rebooted fine after I unplugged the USB drive, I started troubleshooting down that path. It was pretty ridiculous that every time I wanted to reboot, I had to unplug the drive, reboot, and replug in the drive. The boot process wouldn’t even continue if I unplug the drive and keyboard did not have any response, nor was I able to get into the BIOS setup.

After some quick searching, I found this thread: Free Agent freezes computer on restart? Turns out that it’s quite a common problem with certain motherboards that try to boot off USB drives. I don’t know what’s different about this drive since I have another external drive (using a generic external enclosure) and it’s never had problems at boot.

Anyway, I thought maybe it was due to the power-saving mode of inactivity so I disabled that, but that still didn’t help. According to the forums, there were a few things to try:

  • In BIOS, try to disable booting from USB
  • Connect drive to USB PCI card instead of motherboard’s USB ports

I search throughout my BIOS and there was no option to disable booting from USB. I even ended up disabling all USB support and my keyboard/mouse stopped working (it did boot without freezing though). This PC Chips M848A motherboard is pretty crappy and options are pretty limited. I ended up resetting the CMOS.

I was already contemplating if I should get a new CPU/motherboard combo at Fry’s or just pick up a cheap USB PCI card. I mean I’ve brought back a good PCI-E graphics card and DDR2 ram in preparation of the worse case scenario when my mom told me the scent of burning came from my computer and it stopped working (turns out the fan on my graphics card broke off and it just burnt out the GPU).

While looking at the internals, I noticed I already had a USB PCI card, which was not being utilized due to the fact a couple of the ports were dead. I guess that’s what you get from a $5 USB PCI card. I hooked up the Seagate external drive and reboot is working just fine now. No more hangs or freezes.

Update: I actually forgot to mention several things. I had tried to see if I could update my BIOS firmware, but it turns out I already had the latest (July ’04).

I didn’t actually see the mention of USB PCI card until later, and before that I was contemplating on ways to delay the start of my external drive or the USB hub that my drive was connected to.

Merry Christmas!

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas! And for those non-Christmas believers, I wish you Happy Holidays. ;p

My vacation’s half over and it’s been loads of fun so far. Met up with many old friends.

I also went snowboarding on Tuesday with Chris and Dave. Dave taught me how to carve, something I’ve been having trouble with. I’m still in the learning/practicing phase, but at least this time my first instinct isn’t to fall down immediately.

I’ll be in Las Vegas with my family the next few days, so I probably won’t be online (much?). Wish me luck!

Hope you guys are enjoying your holidays too!

CDBurnerXP – Best Burning Software Ever

So Liam was over and wanted me to burn him some “videos” that I had. Should be easy, or so I thought. It turns out I didn’t actually have any data burning software installed on my computer. What is going on I thought… It’s been at least over a year since I last formatted this computer. Windows shows a creation date of April 10th, 2007 for my user folder. Has it really been that long since I’ve burnt any data. I guess that’s what happens when you have a 2.5TB file server available (currently down to only 600GB+ free).

I tried using Windows Explorer as I believed I should’ve been able to drag and drop files onto my burner and burn it via that method. Unfortunately it didn’t recognize my DVD+R as a blank writable disc.

I recall someone telling me an alternative to Nero, but I couldn’t recall what it was called. So I went and “located” my copy of Nero. The version of Nero I found was 7. That darn thing was almost 200MB, while versions 8 and 9 reach almost 1GB. I’m thinking why the heck did Nero’s burning software suite get so huge?!?! After installing Nero, for some reason, it did not recognize my DVD burner. It found my Lite-On CD burner, but I needed to burn a DVD+R. Now I’m pissed for wasting my time on Nero.

Anyway, I typed in nero won’t see dvd burner into Live Search and the first result pointed me to alternatives such as CDBurnerXP. Something clicked and I’m pretty sure that was the alternative someone had suggested to me sometime ago. Anyway, it’s freeware and it’s only a 3MB download! That alone made me much happier. All I wanted was an explorer like interface (similar to old Nero) where I can drag and drop files and then click burn.

And that’s what CDBurnerXP turned out to be. Very simple, very small, very fast. I was browsing through its options and it even has the capability of making bootable discs, something I’ve always wanted from a burning software. Now I can truly get rid of my floppy drive, which I only kept around for flashing the bios on my motherboard.

How to Remove Venetian Blinds

halfway venetian blinds For those who’ve been to my house, you may have noticed that I have a window where the Venetian blinds only go half way down:

I thought maybe one of the previous owners decided that they wanted to always have some sunlight coming in, so they only ordered it to be half length. However, today while I was downstairs in my storage room, I noticed that one of Venetian blinds there was extremely long, much longer than the short window it was suppose to cover. I did some quick measurements and the width was exactly the same. Armed with a ladder, screwdriver, and a flash light, I decided I would see if swapping them around would work.

One of my biggest mistakes was not looking online to see how to properly take apart the apparatus. I saw 2 holders holding the blinds in place and screws on each side and thought, that must be how I take it apart. First one was simple, since there was ample room for me to slide the blinds and stick in a screwdriver. However, the 2nd set was more troublesome. I ended up bending it a bit and ultimately using a flat-nose plier and unscrewing it that way.

After I took it apart, I realized in order to put it back, there was no way I could use the plier to screw it back in. I studied the holder and it turns out the front of the holder can be snapped apart and rotated upwards on a hinge. I didn’t even need my screwdriver. Oh well, too late for that now. Something to remember for next time.

And of course by swapping the window blinds, both my windows are fully covered now!

Vacation!

In a few hours, my vacation will start. Still have to wrap up some stuff at work before I leave.

Anyway, I’m going to be back in Monterey Park on Saturday (12/13) and I’m coming back to the Seattle area on 12/30. If you want to catch up, just drop me a line. It’s been ages since I’ve seen some of you.

Till then, ciao~

WordPress Automatic upgrade

Apparently there’s a plugin that does what I’ve been waiting for WordPress to incorporate all this time: WordPress Automatic upgrade:

WordPress Automatic Upgrade allows a user to automatically upgrade the wordpress installation to the latest one provided by wordpress.org using the 5 steps provided in the wordpress upgrade instructions.

WordPress automatic upgrade upgrades your wordpress installation by doing the following steps.

  1. Backs up the files and makes available a link to download it.
  2. Backs up the database and makes available a link to download it.
  3. Downloads the latest files from http://wordpress.org/latest.zip and unzips it.
  4. Puts the site in maintenance mode.
  5. De-activates all active plugins and remembers it.
  6. Upgrades wordpress files.
  7. Gives you a link that will open in a new window to upgrade installation.
  8. Re-activates the plugins.

The plugin can also can be run in a automated mode where in you do not have to click on any links to go to the next step.

Sweet! I thought the automatic plugin update was really neat already. If this works, then it’ll be sweet! Just make sure you haven’t actually modified WordPress code or your upgrade would overwrite it. Previously, I went and modified WordPress core code to get my collapsible sidebar menus, since that wasn’t exposed in the theme layer. However in my recent upgrade, I forwent all that and only made slight changes to the theme so it’d be easier for later upgrades, so upgrading won’t have to be a multi-hour process and tons of breaking changes. I’ll also be able to upgrade more frequently instead of every 6 months to 1 year.

Next thing they need to add is the ability to download and install new plugins on the fly. Currently I have to download the zip file and upload it myself. But given that they can already automatically upgrade plugins to the latest version, I’d think adding a new plugin shouldn’t be too hard.

Update: Speak of the devil. WordPress 2.7 was just released today. Got to test the plugin first hand today and it was a smooth as a baby’s butt. It was basically the steps above, one after another. Personally I think it requested confirmation too many times. Like I don’t think it really needed my confirmation to go and download the latest version of WordPress. I think it should be 2 simple steps: 1. Backup, 2. Upgrade. Any option needed for backup should be on the 1st page. Any option needed for upgrade should be on the 2nd page. However, it definitely made the upgrade process a lot simpler.

Tons of new stuff that I have yet to check out. Definitely a big improvement over 2.6. The editor space is a lot bigger now (fills up the width of your screen instead of set at some fixed width). The common panes (publish, tags, and categories) are move to the right side. Unfortunately they haven’t made it possible to resize the panes individually. I still don’t understand why you can resize the editor window when it’s in Visual mode, but not in HTML mode.

I just watched the video on their blog and they’ve basically rendered this plugin useless. They’ve apparently built the WordPress upgrade directly into 2.7. They’ve also addressed a few of the points I’ve brought up (i.e. automatically downloading and installing plugins).

Lips Update

So I finally remember to ask the Xbox discussion about the issues I was hitting with Lips.

It turns out that all my issues stem from the fact I have a USB microphone connected to my Xbox 360. Somehow microphone registration gets all screwy because of that. In my case, I have my Rock Band microphone plugged into the Xbox 360 at all times. The fix is to unplug the USB microphone when you’re playing Lips. Apparently this will fix both the 2nd microphone lighting issues as well as the static noise, video and audio out of sync issues, as well as the freezing issues.

Other good news is that Harmonix (creator of Rock Band) is going to patch up Rock Band so it can use the wireless microphones! From MTV Games:

LipsWe broke the news that the highly regarded microphone bundled with Microsoft’s “Lips” karaoke game would not work with “Guitar Hero” or “Rock Band” at launch.

Harmonix and MTV Games have now addressed gamers’ concern over the lack of compatibility, and there’s good news to be shared.

“Microsoft and MTV Games are working together to ensure that consumers will be able to use the wireless mics from ‘Lips’ with ‘Rock Band 2’ after launch,” said the companies in an e-mailed statement. “More details on timing to come. Harmonix and MTV Games strive for all third-party controllers to work with the ‘Rock Band’ games, fitting with Harmonix’ open-platform philosophy for controllers.”

Sounds like we’ll have a patch in the coming weeks! Will you use the “Lips” mic?

That’s great news! Being able to play Rock Band with a wireless microphone would be neat! Then I can scrap my Rock Band microphone and not hit into these issues anymore!