Useful Stuff

Non-Samsung USB Wireless Adapters on Samsung TV – How to

We recently purchased a 40″ Samsung LCD TV (Model No LA40D550) to replace our Jurassic era 29″ Flat screen CRT TV here in India.

The new Samsung TV is pretty cool. Frankly, I did not expect so many features in it! Has 4 HDMI inputs along with a host of other traditional connectors…and 2 USB inputs. You can connect any USB storage device & it plays a good variety of videos including h.264, divx, avi, wmv..etc and ofcourse mp3s and images.

Although this model is not a SMART TV, one cool feature is that this TV supports DLNA! Samsung calls it AllShare.

Well, what that means is, from a Windows 7 PC, one can stream movies/music to the TV. Also from the TV, one can browse & view the media thats on a DLNA server (windows 7 has it built-in). Also, now a days, other devices support DLNA (like my Mobile Phone – HTC Desire HD). So basically, I can play the video that I have on my phone on the TV. And for all this to work you need a WiFi network (works on a wired network as well, but who needs wires :D).

Now, to enable wireless DLNA on this TV you need to purchase the optional Samsung Wireless Adapter – LinkStick (WIS09ABGN), which is a total rip-off at Rs.4500 just for the adapter. Its basically a WLAN adapter, which is Samsung branded. Other 3rd party adapters are available for Rs. 1000 or less but the TV does not recognize it.

So, now for the interesting bit on how to get a Non-Samsung wireless adapter to work on this TV!!… Here are the steps that I followed…(the easiest approach that I could find)

  • Did some research on the Internet & found that the Samsung USB Wireless adapter (WLAN) was basically using a Ralink chipset within it – RT2870 to be precise. So, basically, the TV has the drivers required to control or interact with that chipset. Oh, the TV internally runs on Linux if you were wondering.
  • Now, I had to find a USB WLAN adapter which had the same chip. Did some further search on the internet and found that the Edimax EW-7718Unuses the exact same chipset. Did a quick search on eBay India & found one from Rs. 949 including shipping. Two days, and I had that adapter to play with!
    • You can find other WLAN adapters from other brands too, but make sure that the chipset within it is the same Ralink 2870 chipset & the VID/PID can be changed via the EEPROM (more on this a bit later). Also, please keep in mind that these devices come with different hardware revisions and each revision can have a different chipset. So, you need to be a bit careful here. It won’t burn your TV down if you plug an incompatible USB WLAN adapter, but you will have a useless WLAN adapter with you :)
  • I tried pluging-in this Edimax EW-7718Un adapter to the TV directly and nothing happened. The TV did not recognize it. Then plugged it to my laptop.. and sure enough it was working fine. So, the unit was good.. but the TV was not recognizing it.
  • Did some search again on the net & found this wonderful site called SamyGo.Tv. Not for the faint hearted. Basically they have custom firmware and super cool hacks for Samsung TVs! How cool is that!! This page in particular was very helpful.
  • Every USB device has two identifiers VID & PID, which identifies the vendor and the product. These values are in the ROM and on many of the WLAN adapters, these values can be replaced or re-programmed (i.e, they are on EEPROM). So the TV is basically expecting the WLAN adapter to have Samsung specific vendor ID and product ID. Now we know what needs to be done to get the TV to recognize the Edimax Adapter!
  • So, basically, the Edimax EW-7718Un had the following values
    • VID = 7392
    • PID = 7718
  • For the TV to recognize the Edimax WLAN adapter, I had to replace the above values to the one present on the official Samsung WLAN adapter/linkstick:
    • VID = 04E8
    • PID = 2018
  • According to this wiki page, the recommended approach to make this change is to run some commands in linux, which re-programs the ROM. I searched for Windows equivalent tools to do the same, but could not find anything simple/easy.
  • Well, it had been a while since I had taken Linux for a spin and this was motivating enough to try the latest version of Ubuntu (release 11.1). I set it up in a Virtual environment & started following the instructions on the Wiki page. I quickly learn’t that the drivers did not compile on latest version of Ubuntu.. So had to download the older version of Ubuntu 10.4 and set it up. This time, the drivers compiled perfectly fine!
  • I would consider myself a beginner on linux..and I had to spend some time to figure it out. So, to help anyone else in a similar state, here is what you need to know…
    • The Linux OS by default does not have the necessary drivers for this Chipset (the Ralink RT2870).
    • You download the latest linux drivers from the Ralink website.
    • In the linux world, you need to compile the drivers. So, to do that you need to download the latest updates and development  tools (like the compiler etc) which are not installed by default when you setup Ubuntu/linux. The instructions for this are covered in the Wiki at SamyGo.tv
    • Once the drivers are compiled, you load the drivers using the insmod command (again covered in the Wiki)
  • Once the drivers are loaded, you can then run the command to re-program the VID & PID values in the EEPROM.
    root@localhost:~# iwpriv ra0 e2p 208=04E8
    ra0       e2p:0208=0x04E8
    root@localhost:~# iwpriv ra0 e2p 20A=2018
    ra0      e2p:020A=0x2018
  • Thats it!. Then I plugged the Edimax EW-7718Un adapter to the TV & Viola!!! the TV recognized it as a Samsung adapter without a hitch!
  • Then it was just a matter of selecting my WiFi network, and entering the security key (WEP/WPA/WPA2) and within seconds, the TV was on our home network, DLNA enabled!

Hope this guide is helpful! This should mostly work on the B series, C series & the D series Samsung TVs.

By the way, do check out the SamyGo.tv website & especially this wiki page for other ways to get WLAN adapters working (of other similar chipsets).

Standard Disclaimer applies: I am not responsible to any damage to your TV or the wireless adapter! :)

All the best!

Adding a 2nd HDD to Dell Studio XPS 1647/1645/1640 laptop

Our house was burglarized in early January, and we lost a whole bunch of portable electronics stuff. Our old fully loaded Inspiron 1420 too was a victim of this theft.

After that I was looking for a good laptop to replace it …. and finally ordered a Dell Studio XPS 1647. It took over a month and a half for Dell to ship the laptop and I finally received it last week. Its a pretty good laptop. However, Dell officially supports only one HDD on it. I wanted to use a SSD (solid state drive) as my primary drive for the OS, and then have a second HDD as secondary drive for bulk data storage. So, I bought a 60GB SSD drive and used it as the primary drive. SSD makes a HUGE difference in the performance. No more waits. The entire windows 7 installation was complete in less than 15 mins…  Its a major improvement in performance.

However, the problem is.. the SSD is way to expensive for now. For e.g: 60 GB SSD costs around $170 to $200… and larger capacities cost a fortune. I am pretty sure prices would come down eventually in a year or so.. But for now, I wanted a second HDD to store bulk data – like movies, HD videos that I capture, tons of photos from my dSLR ..etc.. and 60GB won’t suffice. Offcourse, I can connect an external HDD.. but its a hassle with the laptop. So, the search began to see if I could put a second HDD into this laptop. I had heard of people who had replaced their Optical Disk Drives (CD/DVD) with a HDD Caddy and have a second HDD.

So, I did some research on the net and across this specific thread on the notebook review forums, which I visit frequently. Thanks to the author of the thread, I could confirm that this could be done. But since Dell XPS 1647 is a new model (just released), .. no one had really done this, and I believe I am one of the first few to try this out. Not a big deals as such since 1647 is almost similar to 1645/1640 series (except for the processors) and some have reported success on those systems.

So, here is how I did it….. for all the hopefuls :

Pre-Requisites:

  1. Confidence to open your laptop :)
  2. HDD Caddy to replace the Optical Disk Drive – I got one from New Mode Electronics, which sells such caddys. This specific machine uses 12.7mm (height) slot-loading model with SATA external interface. You can buy it on ebay too for a cheaper price, but most of them ship from China and takes a long time to arrive.. and if there is a problem..its  a nightmare to return or re-order.
  3. A second HDD
  4. Dell Service Manual for Studio XPS 16 series – Specially how to replace the Optical Drive

Here is the Pictorial :
Click on each of the image below to see a larger image (in a new window)

Step 01 – Ready to Dismantle the Laptop
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 02 – Remove the Back cover (10 screws to remove)
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 03 – Remove the Rear caps (slide, and pull out as described in the dell service manual). Don’t apply force.
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 04 – Remove 14 screws (this is needed to remove the palm rest). On my system 10 screws were marked “P”, 2 were marked “K” and 2 were flat screws.
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 05 – Turn over, and remove the two screws to remove the palm rest. (Point to remember – once you are done, and when you tighten this later, don’t tighten it too much, else the plastic under it would crack). Once the two screws are removed, use the two tabs to pull out the palm rest (as described in the service manual)
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 06 – Disconnect the cables connected (by lifting the tab – again – its described very well in the service manual).
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 07 – Remove the cables connected (two of them). Now the palm rest is free & the motherboard and the ODD is visible
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 08 – View of the mother board and ODD
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 09 – View of the mother board and the 3 screws that need to be removed to free the OOD
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 10 – One screw at the back to remove the ODD. Point to note – the HDD caddy did not have this screw hole – but the HDD Caddy fits in place securely with other 3 screws.
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 11 – the ODD is now free – You can see the inter-poser (SATA to the motherboard pins) – simply pull it out from the ODD to set it free.
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 11a – View of ODD out of the system
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 12 – The ODD and the HDD Caddy that I got from New Mode Electronics. There is a component that is used on the ODD to secure it to the motherboard – This needs to be removed (2 screws) and put on the new HDD caddy as shown in this image.
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 13 – View of ODD, Securing Component, Interposer, and the HDD Caddy – all side by side.
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 14 – The new HDD caddy with the 500 GB Seagate HDD (that came with my system), interposer and the securing component
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 15 – Plug in the HDD caddy in the system and fasten the screws. From this point, its just a reverse process of putting things back in place (palm rest, screws, rear caps and the back cover)
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 16 – BIOS – now shows the second HDD !
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Step 17 – Window Shows the second HDD!
Dell XPS 1647 2nd HDD

Total time taken from start to finish (including taking photos..etc) –  60 mins!
So, there you go.. you now have a second HDD in your laptop.. hope this pictorial helps!

What if you want to use you CD/DVD drive ?
Well, I have ordered  a eSATA/USB to SATA cable. Using this cable, I can use my CD/DVD drive as an external driver (on the rare occasions that I use it!)

Dell Inspiron 1420 upgraded from Intel 3945ABG to 4965AGN

Well, we have a Dell Inspiron 1420 [did i mention that before? :)]………. and when we purchased it back in Nov ’07, it came with an Intel 3945ABG WiFi card. The Intel 3945ABG card supports speeds of upto 54 Mbps (802.11g). Its good for accessing the internet, but its slow when you do file transfers between nodes on the local network.

So.., over the past week, upgraded our home network…which involved:
1. Replacing my old D-Link DI-524 router with an 802.11n router
2. And replacing the WiFi Card on the laptop with an 802.11n capable card (Intel 4965AGN WiFi Link card).


Linksys WRT600N Router

For #1, I purchased a Linksys WRT600N router — which is a wireless-N gigabit dual-band router, with storage link — which means, you can connect a USB drive to it, and that drive would be available on your network! (kind of like network attached storage – NAS). So, now, my 750GB Seagate external drive is plugged into it, and all its partitions are now accessible wirelessly as a shared folders! (more…)

Driving in USA with Indian Driving License

One of the most asked question I get to hear is, “Can I drive in USA with my Indian Driving License?

Driving in US with Indian Driving License

Well, the answer is, “It depends on the state that you would drive in”. All most all states in US allow you to drive with your Indian License for a period of one year. After that, you need to get a US drivers license. However, if you become a resident of the state, then you need to get a US license within a months time.

One more thing that I get asked is about “International Drivers Permit”. Well, to be frank, its quite useless if your Indian Driving License is written in English. The permit basically tells that you have the license to drive back in India in English. So, its the License thats important and not the Permit. In fact, in some states, International Drivers Permit is not even recognized. So, don’t bother getting it. In any case, your Indian Driving License must be valid and active. (more…)

Amazon.com’s price protection

IMPORTANT: See Update 2 below.

This might be useful if you make frequent purchases on amazon.com. Although Amazon’s website does not say this ‘loudly’, Amazon does have a price protection policy!

While Amazon.com does not do price-matching with other retailers, but if the price of the product that you bought on amazon drops within 30 days of your purchase, you can ask for a refund of the difference amount. The key here is, you need to ask amazon for the refund!

Here is what the policy reads:

Post-Order Price Guarantee

Amazon.com’s prices for released items will change from time to time based on a variety of factors. If Amazon.com’s price for an already-released item decreases within 30 days after we ship the item to you, we’ll be glad to refund the difference in price if you contact us. Please click one of the buttons on the right, and be sure to have your order number handy so we can assist you.

This Post-Order Price Guarantee is subject to the following restrictions:

  • Applies only to products that have already been released. Products that have not yet been released but that are available for pre-order from Amazon.com are not covered by this guarantee, but do benefit from our Pre-Order Price Protection program (see section above).
  • Applies only to items sold by Amazon.com, and not to items (or prices) offered by other sellers on our site.
  • Item prices that are affected by a promotion such as “Buy one, get one free” are not eligible.
  • The price of an item after rebate is not considered to be the Amazon.com price.

Link to this policy can be found here on the amazon website.

I had recently purchased a Logitech Headset on amazon, and the price has dropped twice already, and each time the priced dropped, I got the appropriate refund!

Very handy for electronic products which have the tendency for price drops!

Also, one more interesting and very useful site is www.refundplease.com. This site lets you enter your purchase information (item#, date of purchase and your purchase price) and your email. Once you enter this info, the site automatically checks amazon.com for price drops every day for the next 30 days and notifies you of any changes. Thats how I got to know of the second price drop for the Logitech Headset that I purchased!

Update 1: Check out this site : http://www.priceprotectr.com/ -> this one is similar to refundplease.com, but tracks nearly 60 popular online stores for price drops – so that you can get your refunds!.

Update 2: As of Sep 1st, 2008, Amazon no longer has the price protection policy. Sad but true.

Wart problem ? try this home remedy!!!

Well, first of all, I am not a doctor or anything like that! So, try this at your own risk! :)… But this is something that has worked for me like magic, and has worked for thousands of other people. So I thought of sharing it will all of you!

Well, I had a very small wart on one of my fingers on the left hand. Warts are pretty common and are caused by a virus known as human papillomavirus. They normally appear on the foot, but can appear anywhere on the body. They are not very painful or very harmful etc, but definitely not something that you would like to have on your skin! And……… most of the time, its pretty hard to get rid of them! :)

Now, coming back to my small wart, it had been on my finger for over 2 years growing very slowly – And I tried lots of medications to get rid of it – including tablets, over the counter Salicylic acid and even the Duct tape occlusion therapy!. But nothing seemed to work. All of them just gave temporary relief but no matter what I did, the wart would come back exactly at the same spot within a month or so!

Finally – did some Googling and came across this home remedy – Very simple, Very cheap, and it worked like miracle. Its almost 4 months now, and no signs of the wart that had troubled me for over 2+ years!

(more…)

Mile Sur Mera Tumhara – Original video

I had been in search of this original Mile Sur Mera Tumhara video for years now! Finally found it on You Tube!

Thanks to Lalima who pointed to this video on the Ek Chidiya comment thread! Enjoy!

Update 1 : To download *any* video from youtube.com and other video sites, go to http://javimoya.com/blog/youtube_en.php. You can also use the Video Downloader extension for Firefox to directly download the videos from your Firefox browser.

Update 2 (18-Aug-08) : updated the link to the video on youtube to point to a better quality version of this video.

The Skype Experience

Come July 25th, I would have finished 6 months using Skype-In. I had used Skype prior to that, but it was mainly for Skype to Skype calls or Skype-out calls. I would also be finishing my 6 months here in the United States this month end.

During these 6 months, i have used Skype as my *only* phone to receive calls. This service is called the Skype-In service. The main reason for me to go for Skype-in initially was, I wanted a phone number which I could give to my parents before I left India!. So, I had a US number of Kingpsort Area code, when I was in India. I also had a feeling that it would take some time for me to settle down in US and get a phone number.

Over all, I am kind of satisfied with Skype. But I must say, I am not very happy. Here are some of the Pros and Cons of using Skype in no particular order:

Pros:

  • The Call quality is great. No questions here.
  • Outgoing calls – Very Cheap. I can say dirt cheap. Initially, it used to cost me around 2.1 cents per minute to call any number in US, but later on in May, Skype make all calls made from US to US and Canada free.
  • Incoming calls – The Skype-in service costs $12 for 3 months (or some $38 for a year). So, its cheap again. The local phone service here (Sprint) costs around 30$ per month. So, comparatively its much cheaper.
  • Voice mail is free with Skype-In. Its a very basic voicemail service. But it works. Well, most of the time.
  • You can forward your calls to any other number
  • You can make and receive calls from anywhere as long as you have Internet access.
  • Skype worked pretty well from my office network too which is behind a firewall. Skype is pretty popular for this reason too. So, I can make long distance calls or even receive calls at office
  • In its current version, Skype allows upto 4 parties in a conference. Works well while making international calls.
  • International calls rates are pretty cheap and are comparable to other VOIP players. Its a bit expensive when compared to Reliance India call – when making calls to India, But again, Skype – to – Skype calls are free.
  • Has got excellent SDK/API support – so, there are lot of third party tools/software which interact with Skype.
  • I have bought a skype-to-usb-to-Phoneline adaptor. So, I use a regular cordless phone to make and answer calls. So, I am not tied to the computer.
  • Video conference works great – Quality of video is much better than other applications.

Cons:

  • Well, Skype is not a true telephone company. Its a Internet company based out of Europe. So, there is absolutely no customer service. There is an helpdesk and a ticket system on the Skype website, but it sucks big time.
  • Even though you buy stuff from Skype, you don’t get a proper invoice (phone bill), which shows your name/address and phone number (Skype-in number) on it. Now, you might be wondering why the hell that would be required?.. .. Its required when you are new in US, and you want open and bank account or something similar, and they ask you address proof etc. I had a very difficult time trying to open a citibank account, which they refused to open without a phone bill.
  • Couple of months back, Skype had some technical problems, and I think i missed some incoming calls.
  • Same with the case with voice mails.
  • No caller id for your outgoing call. So, the receiver receives your calls as a call from 012345.
  • You get caller Id for your incoming calls, but only the number. It does not display the name. (the local phone lines, and some other VOIP players show caller ID with the name of the caller).
  • If you don’t have a the adapter that I have mentioned about, then you must be close to the computer (with a mic) to make/receive calls.
  • The Processor utilization is relatively high when call is in progress.
  • Video chat take lots of bandwidth – It does not matter here in US, but if you are in India, and have a Usage Limit on your Internet access, then you need to be very careful while using video chat.
  • No 911.

Overcall I would rate my Skype experience around 6 on a scale of 10. But I must say, you can really save a lot of money if you can live up with basic telephone connectivity.

Currently, at Houston, in Chitra’s appartment, we have subscribed to the Sunrocket service which is again a VOIP service, but works much differently from Skype. Its not as cheap has Skype, but has lot less cons then mentioned in the above list. Will post more about Sunrocket in the future after using it for a couple of months.

Google Earth – Major Data update

Just checked Google earth.. and it looks like there has been a major data update. Lots of places are much clearer. Not very high resolution, but much better then before!. My home town, Mangalore now looks great, and I can see my house ! :)

Check out this picture of Infosys Mangalore – My office back at Mangalore…

Infosys Mangalore - from Google Earth
Infosys Mangalore – Google Earth view – Click to Zoom

Infact, tons of places across the globe have new images!. Enjoy! I am off to side-seeing! :)

Try out Google Earth today!.