X-Box 360 Upgraded

My X-Box 360 is now upgraded.  I was shocked at the simplicity.  Not even any tools needed!  The hard drive on the X-Box 360 is actually attached to the left side of the console (at least on MY model it is–I think there have been one or two new versions released since mine though).  You just push in a button there while pulling on the drive and it disconnects and pops off.  No wires, no muss, no fuss.  Connect the new drive the exact opposite and you’re half done!  The transfer cable then attaches to the old drive, which I just disconnected, and provides a USB connection that plugs into the back of the X-Box.

After attaching the new drive and connecting the old one via USB, I powered up the X-Box and looked around. My profiles were still there, but obviously no content.  Without the “transfer disc” that I had seen on the Interwebs, I was a little concerned about the process.  So I went to Settings >> Storage, and there I found the options I was looking for.  The drive showed that it was Internal and empty, and the options on it included “Transfer data”.  I chose the “transfer data TO this drive” option, and was then able to select a source device, which was the external drive, then I was given the list of item types on the source drive (Profiles, Demos, Games, Videos, etc.) and asked which ones I wanted to transfer.  I chose everything, then deselected Demos and started the process.

With a 120GB drive, it took about an hour to reach 100%.  Once it finished, I powered off (but wasn’t prompted to), disconnected the old drive connected to the rear USB jack, and then powered up the X-Box.  Ah, quietness!  The system is much quieter now, though still a little noisier than I thought.  I think the DVD drive mechanism is just loud when it checks for a disc.  It still works fine though, so I’m not concerned.  The system came up fine and all games and content looks great, installed, and I still have over 390GB free–lots of breathing room with everything I currently own for the console already installed.  I just wonder if ALL of Microsoft’s consoles are this easily upgradeable, or if I just got lucky with this one.

A week with a Nissan Versa Note

Nissan Versa NoteNo, it’s not a new cell phone. It’s the rental car I got from enterprise last week. My car is in the shop recovering from the deer I hit last week, and the shop offers a 5-day free rental, so I ended up with this Nissan. I must say, it is definitely the oddest vehicle I have ever driven, hands-down. It’s a 2015 model, so it’s brand new, with only just over 3,000 miles on it, but everything about this car is just a little “off” from the norm, or from what I expect in a car. Let me make a list of my complaints to make it easy to follow:

1. First of all, you can’t put gas in it until you find the secret gas-door release lever. Took me a while, but I found it…Under the steering column!

2. On most full-corner turns, the radio station changes. Turns out my fingers tap the radio controls on the steering wheel “just right” when turning corners. Nice.

3. No matter what I did, I could not get my Android phone properly connected to bluetooth to play music through the stereo, and USB would never work for audio either. All I got every time I tried was a “Please check USB device” error on the screen. A friend of mine tried to use the USB jack to charge his iPhone and as soon as he plugged in the USB, HIS music began playing over the stereo just fine! So it works great on Apple devices, but doesn’t work on Android. Are you sure this car isn’t a year 2000 model?? Come on, it’s 2015!

4. The windows kept fogging up on me all week… I couldn’t figure this out until the last day I had the car. In frustration I pulled over on the side of the road, put it in park, and looked REALLY hard for something I knew had to be there: Something to switch between recirculating inside air–which it HAD to be in for it to always fog up like it was doing–and feeding in fresh air. The symbols for these options were dead center on the dash, near the bottom, inset into the surface. But they weren’t buttons, and there was no lever there. When I got desperate and finally crawled down and looked UP at the underside of the dash, there it was–a level that flipped left or right–one way was recirculate, the other was fresh air. I flipped that baby to fresh air, and viola! The windows began to clear up!

5. It takes FOREVER to warm up the cabin in this car, especially just sitting in the driveway in the morning. Driving it doesn’t make it warm up much faster either though. Must be a “green” thing.

6. Every single time you start the car, the AC comes on. Whether it was off when you stopped the car last or not, it ALWAYS comes on when you start the car. No idea why. I didn’t find a setting anywhere to keep this off. Every day was in the 20’s the week I had it, so I certainly never needed the AC at all.

7. The gas guage goes from 0 to 1 – 0 is empty, 1 is full. What happened to E to F?? Does EVERYTHING have to be digital these days?? It either HAS gas (1) or it doesn’t (0). At least there’s still a “1/2” in the middle… though I’m surprised this doesn’t say “0.5”!

Personally, I’m thinking the car turns the AC on just to burn more fuel. The MILEAGE it gets seems to be pretty awesome–which is the only GOOD thing I really have to say about it, so in sticking with the theme, there’d have to be SOMETHING wrong with it getting this kind of mileage…

The New Roku Stick…it up your arse!

The new Roku Stick just came out.  The Roku 2 & 3 are better than the stick though, so I don’t get it.  I guess it’s just for people that don’t want the extra little box, and don’t mind a sluggish Roku.  Now, if it were as good or better than the Roku 3, I’d drool over it.  I could plug it into any TV as easy as a flash drive and it’d be fairly portable! But it’s just not there yet.  Plus, they hide the fact that it still needs POWER.  You either have to run a wire from the Roku stick to a USB port on your TV (if your TV has USB ports) or run it to a USB-to-AC adapter and plug it into the wall.  So, when you get right down to it, they just scrunched it down to a smaller package without the HDMI cable–sorta–you still need the same two connections to it–HDMI and power.  It’s the same as gluing a sluggish “Roku 1” to the back of your TV!  Yeah, now there’s an idea!  Don’t get me wrong though, I love Roku–I have several.  I just don’t see the point in releasing something NEW that’s–according to their own website–5 times slower than their best model!

MagicJack

I recently took a big risk with our phone service, and switched to MagicJack.  Due to our ever-increasing cost of living, we’ve been looking for ways to cut costs.  Since Sandy and I both have cells phones, I wanted to get rid of our home phone completely and just go with our cell phones only.  Sandy thought differently, however, and thought we should keep our home phone service.  So I looked into our options.  As it was, we were paying $50-$60 per month for our home phone service through McLeodUSA.  $30-$35 of this was for our base services, and the rest was for long distance calls””mostly from me when I’m on-call at work (a Waukegan hospital, which is long distance for us, and their corporate support, which is in Tennessee).  Time-Warner cable-based phone service was an option that would save us some money, especially since it offers free long distance as part of the package.  So that was one option.  AT&T also recently stopped at our door offering their all-in-one package and “U-Verse”, whatever the heck that thing is”¦and this would have been about the same savings overall.  Then I saw this bizarre thing on TV and in a few Internet ads called “MagicJack.”  It certainly couldn’t be for real, so for a long time I dismissed it as just one of those goofy scams, like the “Free Internet TV” applications we always see the ads for.

Well, when yet another even bigger phone bill arrived this month, I decided to look into it further.  I read many reviews of it, looked into application compatibility, and then, based on the price, we decided to just jump right into it.  It’s a flat $39.99 for the box, which includes the first year of service, then it’s $20 per year after that.  So we’re basically talking $20 for the little USB device, and $20 per YEAR for the phone service.  Compare that to the $600 or more per year we were previously paying for our phone service!  Plus, since we picked up the box at Best Buy, we can return it within 14 days for a full refund.  And if you want even more of a deal, just visit the MagicJack website.  There you can order on for free and try it out for 30 days before paying for it.  So after weighing all of the options, we decided to go ahead and switch to it.   We didn’t have anything to lose, and if it works out, we’ll come out way ahead! If I have you drooling now, make sure you read the rest of this posting closely.  There are some caveats and requirements that might not make it an ideal solution for you.  First of all, the only instructions are 3 simple steps on the packaging: 1. Plug your phone into it, 2. Plug it into a USB slot on your PC (or Mac), 3. Pick up your phone and use it.  Sounds pretty simple, and in a perfect world it would be.  But as it turns out, this only applies to Windows XP users.  Vista users are close though.  It won’t work as easy as this on Vista right out of the box–you have to go to their website and download the Vista update and install it to make it work.  Then there’s Windows 7″”which is what I’m using now.  I figured if the update worked for Vista, it should also Apply to 7.  No such luck.  But after some googling, I found a workaround that worked great.  It required a Windows Vista system to complete though””you basically install the software and activate the MagicJack on Vista, then copy all of the configuration to the Windows 7 PC.  After that it works great.  Interestingly, MagicJack Support said that the MagicJack simply will not work on Windows 7 yet.  I can say for sure though, that it does.

Next there’s the requirement of the PC.  It has to be on and available, with the MagicJack software running, in order to be able to make and receive phone calls.   This is no problem for us, we have a main PC that we keep on 24/7 as it is, and it’s fairly new, so it’s fast enough to handle the telephone while still allowing us to use it for all of our usual applications.  We just have to be careful not to reboot when someone’s on the phone, or accidentally close the application.  When the computer isn’t on or it’s unavailable, your calls automatically go to MagicJack voicemail.  This is a nice feature though””it will automatically even e-mail your voicemail messages to you””as .WAV files.  It also includes music on hold (while you’re using call waiting) and 3-way calling, although we haven’t used these features yet.  I did hear the music on hold for several seconds and it was pretty raspy.  But this feature isn’t even mentioned anywhere yet, so I think it’s experimental at this point.

On to call quality:  Call quality depends on your broadband connection.  From what I’ve read, if your upload speed is too low, you won’t be able to make or receive calls.  So my having the “turbo” addon with Time Warner might be making all the difference in the world for us.  We use the Playstation Network, X-Box Live, Digital Cable, as well as the Internet on a daily basis, so believe me, we need the speed boost.  Call quality has been very good so far though.  Calls sound nearly landline quality, and definitely much better than cell phone quality.  I have noticed slight dropouts occasionally, and I experienced one 3-second pause where someone electronically “stuttered” part of a word, but then it resumed the conversion normally after that.  The caller on the other end didn’t even hear it.  Also, just starting a call is sometimes a bit difficult.  You might get a dial tone, dial a number, and nothing””no ring, nothing.  Hang up and call again though, and it works fine.  Just a little glitchy there I guess.

Then there’s a power issue.  The MagicJack box itself is about the size of a cigarette lighter and plugs into a USB port.  If the port is unpowered, or plugged directly into a USB port on a PC, you can often have problems with it rebooting the software, disconnecting your calls, etc.  These problems, however, all seem to be remedied by simply using a powered USB hub.  It MUST be powered too””this is the issue””the MagicJack requires all of the power of a dedicated USB jack.  Fortunately, I was proactive with this, and had a spare powered 8-port D-Link USB hub ready to use with it.  I haven’t experienced this issue at all since we started using it, so I guess the hub works.

Lastly, the phone number problem.  You don’t get to keep your old phone number.  MagicJack doesn’t currently support “porting” of phone numbers to its service.  They plan to offer this feature in the near future, however.  So we had to choose a new number.  You do this when activating your MagicJack, and you are given the option of choosing from the available prefixes available within your area code.  The 4-digits after the prefix, however, are automatically generated.  For us, in the 262 area code, the only available prefixes were in the Thiensville area, so even our next door neighbors have to call long distance (if THEIR phone service doesn’t include extended-range local calling) in order to call us.  A bit of a bummer, but when you think about it, everyone’s phone service is evolving anyway, so there are probably few people left still paying extra for “extended area” calling beyond this distance. (Thiensville is actually 57 miles North of us).

I think that’s about it though.  If you can handle all of the “catches” involved, this could be a viable solution for you.  I think it’s going to be fine for us.  Having an excellent Internet connection helps a lot though, I’m sure.  And if there’s just too many catches for you to be comfortable with switching to it, keep it in the back of your mind for awhile.  Based on previous history, the service and support for MagicJack is getting better all the time.  They’re bound to improve the device as well as the phone service and it’s features in the near future, especially support for Windows 7 after it is officially released in October.  I think I can handle the issues and make this thing worth the $600 we’ll save each year.

Matt Chat from Afghanistan

Matt’s over in Afghanistan now. He left a few days ago. He called us at 4:30 in the morning the other day. He wasn’t sure what time it was here, since he’s on the other side of the planet now. I just had a little chat with him tonight. It was great to talk to him and know he’s doing good. Here’s a capture of our conversation (most of it, anyway). I edited out the actual locations he mentioned, just in case: [18:34] Matt : hello?
[18:35] jimtrottier: hi matt!
[18:35] jimtrottier: This is Jim
[18:35] jimtrottier: Got Internet over there?!
[18:36] Matt : at this current spot i do
[18:36] jimtrottier: Where are ya?
[18:36] Matt : were gonna be movin out soon
[18:36] Matt : *******
[18:37] jimtrottier: Never heard of it. I’ll have to look it up. It’s 6:37pm Wed here. What time is it there?
[18:38] Matt : 5:37 on thursday
[18:38] jimtrottier: Wow, you’re in the FUTURE! Cool!
[18:38] Matt : haha
[18:38] Matt : yea it was kinda bizare to watch the sun rise like twice while we were flying
[18:38] jimtrottier: Is it dangerous where you are now?
[18:38] Matt : nope
[18:39] jimtrottier: Thats good
[18:39] Matt : we actually beat the sun rise here
[18:39] jimtrottier: cool
[18:39] Matt : saw it half way and then it came back
[18:40] Matt : mom working?
[18:40] jimtrottier: Yes
[18:41] Matt : ahh kevin asleep already?
[18:41] jimtrottier: Not yet. playing LBP right now
[18:42] Matt : ahhh anything new come out yet?
[18:42] jimtrottier: nope, no new costumes or anything last week either. We’re waiting for two weeks worth of goodies this thursday
[18:43] Matt : is it expected to come out?
[18:43] Matt : yea
[18:44] jimtrottier: something should at least. Last week nothing cause of the holiday, so i jsut think there’ll be more than usual. No rumors yet though.
[18:44] Matt : yep thats it
[18:44] jimtrottier: Can’t even pronouce the name of that place!
[18:45] jimtrottier: What they got you doin?
[18:45] Matt : absolutely nothing
[18:45] Matt : i sit around and watch movies
[18:46] jimtrottier: Not a bad gig!
[18:46] Matt : completely filled up my tb already
[18:46] jimtrottier: wow!
[18:49] Matt : i wanna get a new one and start working on it
[18:49] jimtrottier: Another tb? holy crap
[18:49] Matt : yea lol
[18:51] jimtrottier: They have new 1.5tb drives now, nice.
[18:51] Matt : yeah i saw that i was thinking about getting one and selling my tb probably
[18:52] Matt : i seen one that was 2tb at best buy i dont know if it was 2 individual or combined
[18:52] Matt : but it was expensive
[18:53] jimtrottier: I think it was 2 drives in 1 box. Lemme check…
[18:55] jimtrottier: It doesn’t say if it’s 2 drives in 1 or not. It’s a NAS though, not USB.
[18:56] Matt : whats that?
[18:56] jimtrottier: Network Attached Storage. Connects through a network port, like a PC to a network.
[18:57] Matt : ahh
[19:01] Matt : i gotta get going
[19:02] Matt : my buddy wants to head back to the tent
[19:02] jimtrottier: Ok. Keep safe. We’ll talk to ya later. bubye
[19:02] *** “Matt ” signed off at Wed Jan 07 19:02:39 2009.