Archive for the ‘Hardware, network etc.’ Category

h1

Synology NAS: Change file path for DLNA access

March 27, 2018

This post is for future me, and anyone else who may find it useful!

Problem

I wanted to access music (stored on my Synology Diskstation NAS) through my Samsung (not-very-smart-because-it’s-7-years-old) TV. The TV was looking for ../music as the DLNA file path, but that’s not the folder I use for my music. I couldn’t find where to change the setting either on the TV (not possible) or in the Synology Diskstation settings.

With the help of the wonderful Raj at PC Guru, I found where to change it (see below) and now the NAS is indexing the music files ready for playback via the TV.

Solution

  1. Go to Control Panel on the Synology Diskstation interface.
  2. Scroll down to Indexing Service and select it.
  3. Click Indexed Folder.
  4. Click in the row for the file path you want to change. In my case I wanted to change ‘music’ to ‘jukebox’ so I clicked the ‘music’ row.
  5. Click Edit to open the Edit Indexed Folder window.
  6. Change the folder name to the path you want, or click the Select button to select the folder you want your TV to see. In my case, I changed the folder path for music to /Jukebox.
  7. If it’s not already selected, select the file type for this folder (i.e. Music in my case).
  8. Optional: You can change the name of the indexed folder — according to Raj, this changes what you see displayed on your TV when choosing your media type. I was happy to leave it as music.
  9. Click OK.
  10. Click Apply.
  11. You’ll likely have to re-index your media files so the TV can see them all — click Re-index to start that process. Re-indexing can take quite some time, depending on how many files you have stored in that folder on the NAS.
  12. To test that it all works, go to your TV and see if you can see the files and folders. In my case (Samsung TV), I had to chose the DLNA device from my list of sources, then the big icon for Music, and then navigate into the folders to find the music — for my test, only those files/folders that had been indexed displayed. Once the indexing has finished, they should all be visible.
h1

Wifi connection shuts down modem/router

March 10, 2018

Here’s a weird one. When we got the NBN installed in mid-December, part of the deal was a replacement modem/router to allow a VDSL signal. I tested all the things at the time, including my HP Spectre x360 laptop, by opening up a browser window in each device and making sure I could connect to the internet from it. I tested both LAN and wifi connections — all was fine on all devices, though I can’t say that I left the laptop on for any length of time after the test. I only use the laptop when I go away, so it’s rarely on when I’m in the house.

Fast forward to last Saturday. I decided it was time to do all the Microsoft updates on the laptop, in preparation for a trip in a month’s time. (Hint: Don’t try downloading updates via a hotel’s wifi connection.) I turned on the laptop and it autoconnected to my wifi. I went to the Updates area and pressed the button to check for Microsoft updates. After a few minutes, I got a message that the laptop couldn’t contact the Microsoft servers. I checked the wifi connection and it had been lost. Then my husband complained that he had no internet. Hmmm. A quick glance at the modem showed a big red light instead of a row of green flashing lights. After a few minutes all lights started flashing green again, so I connected the laptop again and tried the update process again. And the modem went out again. This happened several times. Somewhere in there I rebooted the modem myself by switching it off for a minute or two and switching it back on. Same story.

I called iinet (my ISP), and they got me to pull the power on the modem for a few minutes. Same story. Then they decided to put me on a ‘stability’ plan to see if that helped. Effectively, what that means is that my download speed went from around 80 Mbps to 60 Mbps. Somewhere in there I decided to turn off the laptop because it was obvious I wasn’t going to update anything if the connection kept going in and out every time the modem rebooted itself. While in stability mode — and after I’d turned off the laptop — the modem lights remained green for the rest of the day and evening, and were still stable the next day.

On Sunday, I decided to try to updates again. I turned on the laptop, it autoconnected to the wifi, I opened a browser, and within 4 mins of turning on the laptop, I lost connection and the modem rebooted itself. Hmmm… Maybe the laptop’s wifi was the culprit? The best way to test that was to turn off the wifi and plug a LAN cable into it. No problems at all. But within minutes of taking out the LAN cable and turning the laptop wifi back on, the modem rebooted. It WAS the laptop’s wifi! I called iinet on Monday to let them know I’d isolated the problem, ask if they’d heard of such a thing (there was almost nothing in a Google search), and ask them to switch us back to our usual speed. The customer support person checked with others and said the only thing he could suggest was doing a factory reset on the modem, which I was reluctant to do (all those customised settings…). He also said he’d return our speed and that the modem ‘shouldn’t reboot’ when he did that, but it did.

Later in the week, I contacted my PC Guru guys to see if they’d heard of anything like this  (one of them had and he thought it might be an incompatibility between the wireless drivers and the modem) and to see if there was some sort of configuration they could do to the wifi connection on the laptop to sort it out. Well, they did! They installed a heap of HP Support updates, and updated the Intel wireless driver on the laptop. One of those fixed it.

My laptop now works on wifi in the house and doesn’t reboot the modem.

So this post is to remind me in future what we had to do in case it ever happens again, and perhaps help anyone else who might have the same problem. There’s no guarantee that updating the drivers or firmware will work for you, but it’s worth a try.

Update, end of July 2018: It did it again! I turned on the laptop after several months of no use, and tried to connect to the wifi on my home network. It kept losing connection, so I went into my home office to see if I could get a better signal, and guess what? The router was in the process of rebooting itself and we had no internet connection for anyone. I turned off the wifi on the laptop, and the router came back online. I then connected the laptop to the network via a LAN cable, went to the HP Support program and did another update. I shut down the laptop and rebooted it later and tested the wifi when no-one else was using the internet. This time it seemed to be fine and didn’t take out the router this time. Crossing my fingers I don’t have to do this EVERY time I want to use my laptop in the house… Interestingly, I’ve travelled overseas a lot with this laptop and I’ve never had a problem connecting to wifi in airport lounges, hotels, or tethering to my phone’s wifi hotspot. Just at home.

 

h1

US SIM cards

February 25, 2018

I used to get my US SIM card on leaving Australia, but the company has closed down its kiosks at Sydney and Melbourne international airports and you can only buy from them online now (www.simcorner.com). Although buying online isn’t an issue, the only mobile plan they sell that suits me is from T-Mobile. However, my experiences with T-Mobile on the past few trips have been less than stellar, to the point SimCorner have refunded part of my money as compensation for glacial speeds (meant to be 4G), and lack of connection, even in major cities like Boston.

Time to look for another Australian provider of US SIM cards. In my search, I found a website (www.frequencycheck.com) where you can put in your phone model and get an assessment of which US carriers your phone is likely to ‘play nice’ with. In that check, I found that AT&T and my phone are the best match (and unsurprisingly, T-Mobile didn’t rate very highly for my phone model).

I investigated a few providers — some were based in Europe, some required you to do the activation yourself on arrival (not good after a 16+ hour flight while waiting for a connecting flight), and some didn’t tell you much at all, like whether or not the plan you were looking at allowed you to use your phone as a mobile hotspot (aka tethering). Some also had NO way of contacting them if anything went pear-shaped, except via their online form or an email address — not very good if you’ve just landed at a US airport from Australia and you now have NO internet access. I had to email one seller to find out if any of their plans allowed tethering — only one did, but this was NOT mentioned on their website, so I could’ve spent about $100 on an ‘unlimited everything’ plan only to find out on arrival I couldn’t use my phone as a hotspot. (For those wondering why I need hotspot facility — many hotels have free wifi, but it can be glacially slow and it certainly isn’t secure. Similarly, I tend not to use public wifi.) All the sites I checked had Facebook pages, but many hadn’t updated them in more than a year*, so that’s another red flag, as well as the ‘Community’ posts on their Facebook pages where customers were complaining about not receiving their SIM or being unable to activate their card and needing urgent help.

Eventually, I went with the provider who wasn’t the cheapest (actually they were the most expensive), but whose website was comprehensive and gave me this information:

  • Full details of what each AT&T SIM plan had, along with any limitations and restrictions
  • Automatic activation based on the date of arrival you put in
  • No need for the phone’s IMEI to be provided
  • Various contact/support methods — Australian phone #, 24/7 US phone #, email address, specific email address of the owner of the company
  • Detailed instructions
  • Detailed breakdown of what you’re paying for — SIM card plan, cost of actual SIM card, registered post (plus expected time of delivery)
  • Testimonials (more than the three one website had)
  • Comprehensive FAQ.

Ultimately, my decision was based on how confident I felt that the company would respond to any problems, based on the information provided on their website.

Only time will tell — my next trip is mid-April, so I’ll report back after that.

Bottom line: When prospective customers are looking to buy from you, give them as much information as they need to make that purchase, set out clearly and written concisely. And if the product is one that may require support, make sure you offer more than just a contact form available only via the internet.

Update (March 2018): Since I wrote this, I’ve checked Telstra’s offerings (Telstra is the biggest Australian telco, and who I have my phone plan with). Previously, international roaming with Telstra required you to remortgage your house! They changed that a few years ago, but even a year or so ago, it was still expensive. The $10/day wasn’t so bad, but the data allowance was miniscule and they whacked you very hard if you exceeded it, with the result that you could still come home to bill in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Happy holidays, NOT! However, Telstra has changed (probably to compete with the offerings of the other carriers) and the rates are now more reasonable — it’s still $10/day for global roaming, with a 200 MB/day data allowance (expires each day, so not cumulative). If you exceed your 200 MB in any day, you can purchase another 500 MB for $10, and that 500 MB lasts for 31 days. In addition to the 200 MB of data each day, you get to keep your Australian phone number, and get unlimited standard international calls and texts. For a 20-day trip, you’d be up for about $200 (you’re only charged for the days you use, but be aware the ‘day’ is based on Australian Eastern Standard Time), with a possible extra $10 or $20 for extra data, if needed. Not as cheap as a US SIM, but you don’t have to change SIMs, possibly change APN details in your phone and let the new provider know your IMEI number, tell others your US phone number, update airline and other websites with your temporary US number etc. It’s an option I might consider for the next trip after the upcoming one, though I’d need to find out what data speeds (2G, 3G, 4G?) the international roaming plan defaults to — if it’s glacial, there’s not much point.

Update (April 2018): I arrived in the US last night, and turned on my phone after installing the new SIM while in the air. It connected immediately to the AT&T network for phone calls and text messages, but not for data. However, the provider had given full instructions for updating the APN settings on an Android phone if it didn’t connect for data (not necessary for iPhones — it seem they connect automatically), and after I entered those settings and waited 5-15 mins, I had data connection. However, I didn’t have email connection on my phone as I link to Exchange Server for my email — I didn’t worry about changing those settings as I get email fine when I’m on wifi, AND I’d set my ISP email settings to send a copy of all my email sent to my Gmail account, which I can access without any issue on my phone.

The data connection isn’t particularly good close to San Francisco International Airport (SFO), despite all coverage maps for all companies showing ‘excellent’ coverage in and around big cities and airports. I used Speedtest.net to check, and got 1.22 Mbps download and 1.86 Mbps upload, with a 27 ms ping rate. This was with 1 bar of 4G coverage. A few minutes later it was still 1 bar, but I got 3.18 down and 0.89 up. I’ll monitor it over the next few days, but will use free wifi for general browsing and checking email where it’s available and has better speed. (Note: Checking via Speedtest chews up quite a bit of data [about 7 mb each test?] so I won’t do it often otherwise I’ll use up all my data just checking the speed!)

Oh, the Australian company I got my SIM card through? https://www.usaprepaidsimcard.com.au/ I bought the MAX plan as it allows me to use my phone as a wifi hotspot in areas of very bad or no wifi coverage. The other plans with more data don’t allow this.

Further to this… I contacted the Australian supplier about the speed near SFO and after getting me to check a couple of things which didn’t work (they were VERY prompt in their replies to me!) they put me in touch with the AT&T help desk, where the lady I spoke to was also very helpful. The issue with speed resolved itself as soon as I moved out of the SFO environment, so I’m guessing something weird was happening at that location.

A week later… I took the train from San Francisco to Chicago. There was no wifi on the train, so I HAD to use my cell phone as a wireless hotspot if I wanted connection. My previous T-Mobile SIMs would almost die if I took them away from a major city, but this AT&T SIM was like the Energiser Bunny — it just kept on and on, even out in the wilds of the Sierra mountains and Colorado where I didn’t expect any coverage. Yes, in some places coverage was patchy, but we were in the middle of nowhere and no-one had signal in those cases. So, based on my experience on the train, I’d go with AT&T again.

******

* Yeah, I’m also guilty of not updating my CyberText Facebook page — to be honest, I only grabbed the page way back when to prevent someone else from grabbing the name; I never intended it to be a method for anyone wanting my services to contact me.

[Links last checked February 2018]

 

 

h1

All phone contacts added to car

December 30, 2017

When we got my husband’s new car a couple of weeks ago, the sales guy paired our phones. However, despite me saying I didn’t want all my 1000+ contacts downloaded, it happened automatically before he could change the setting.

My phone’s contacts are paired with Exchange Server, and Outlook on my PC had been happily creating ‘Suggested contacts’ for years (yes, you can turn this off in Outlook 2010 [under File > Options > Contacts]; I believe later versions don’t have it turned on automatically). Even though I may have deleted contacts from the main list, the ‘suggested contacts’ and subfolders I’d created in Outlook had heaps more people. Arrghh! And they ALL went into the car’s system — people who live outside Australia (the car won’t travel outside Australia and may not even go interstate), people who have died, businesses I contacted ONCE xx years ago. I purged these last week in preparation for slimming down the 1000+ contacts list (it’s about 550 now!).

After reading the car’s manual, I got it sorted out, and now have about 10 of my contacts in the car’s system!! In essence, what I did was:

  1. Turn on the car and wait for the Bluetooth to connect with my phone.
  2. Go into the settings in the car for my connected phone and turn off the option to download contacts automatically. THIS STEP WAS CRITICAL. Note: I can’t tell you where this is on your car — every brand/model is different. If you have trouble with this, read your manual, or go back to your dealer for help. Or ask a 12 year old…
  3. Delete the car from my Bluetooth devices in my phone.
  4. Delete my phone from the car’s Bluetooth devices.
  5. Re-pair the Bluetooth connection between my car and the phone.
  6. Once they were re-paired, I manually shared the selected contacts on my phone with the car. There was a bit of a black art in getting the sequence right to upload one contact at a time (it couldn’t deal with multiples, but that might be more me not knowing what to).

Now I have another issue — deleting contacts from Exchange Server via Outlook DOESN’T delete them from my phone or tablet, so even though I now only have ~550 contacts on Exchange Server, my phone still has the 1000+ contacts from a few weeks ago. I couldn’t find an easy way to delete them so spent some of the Christmas break deleting them manually from those devices. It only took a couple of hours and is now done.

h1

Windows won’t eject my storage device

February 22, 2017

I’d been using an external hard drive (connected by USB) and wanted to safely eject it. But no matter what I did, I kept getting this message: “Windows can’t stop your ‘Generic volume’ device because a program is still using it. Close any programs that might be using the device, and then try again later.”

I tried quite a number of possible solutions I found on the internet, but none worked for me — until this one below. I’ve copied the solution in full, in case this information is no longer available at the URL at some time in the future (original URL where I found the answer: http://superuser.com/questions/36716/how-to-safely-remove-a-usb-drive-when-windows-cant-stop-your-generic-volume).

**********

Simple fix (Windows 7 Professional 64-bit):

  1. Change the drive letter, and if you want to keep the same letter, change it back.
  2. The drive can now be unmounted.

When you change the drive letter, it disconnects the drive from all processes that might be using it, as the warning message states. Once that happens, you can then unmount it the usual way.

If you don’t know how to change drive letter, follow these instructions.

  1. Control Panel –> Administrative Tools –> Computer Management –> Storage –> Disk Management (wait ~10 seconds for information to appear.)
  2. Select the problem drive under volume heading.
  3. Scroll to that drive in the lower part of window.
  4. Right-click on the drive, and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.
  5. Change the drive letter to one not reserved for another drive.
  6. Acknowledge the warning message.
  7. If you wish the drive to retain the original letter, simply switch it back. The drive can now be unmounted.

************

[Link last checked February 2017]

h1

Telstra service status

February 15, 2017

For my Aussie readers: If you’re having a problem with your Telstra landline, you can enter your postcode into this site (http://servicestatus.telstra.com/) and get a status update. There are three ‘buttons’ at the top of the screen — current interruptions/maintenance, scheduled maintenance, and completed maintenance. The service they’re referring to is landline voice calls ONLY, not ADSL internet.

And why did I find this out? Each of the three calls I made at various times today and to various numbers gave me a message that the ‘service to the telecoms network I was calling was temporarily congested, and please try again later’.

So I called iinet who my phone is through, and their 13xxxx number worked straight away from my landline. The lovely support person I spoke to said Telstra keep the 13xxxx numbers free in case of emergency as they’re ‘more important’, and told me about this Telstra site. Sure enough, we have ‘scheduled maintenance’ going on right now (‘Customers may experience difficulties making and receiving calls using their home phone service’) and it’s expected to last from 15 to 28 Feb (!!!). However, she said typically Telstra work on one part of the exchange for a day, which means we might only be down for the day. Fingers crossed. Meantime, Telstra gave us NO notification that the phone would be out, nor do they notify iinet of such outages.

h1

PC lost connection to network: Solved

September 26, 2016

One of the PCs on my network lost connection to the other computers and the internet yesterday. All the other PCs were fine. After trying many options to get it reconnected (see the list at the end of this post for the things I tried that didn’t work, just in case one of them works for you), I narrowed the likely culprit down to a faulty network cable or network card. I then called my PC Guru people for help and after they listened to what I’d tried, my Guru asked me to check the network adapter settings — the ‘Ethernet’ one on that computer was disabled. He got me to re-enable it and everything worked again! No, I still don’t know why it would inexplicably lose connection.

Here’s how to re-enable it:

  1. Right-click the network icon in the System Tray on the Taskbar (or go to Control Panel).
  2. Click Open Network and Sharing Center.
  3. Click Change adapter settings in the left panel.
  4. Look for a grayed out icon — on this Windows 8.1 machine it was called ‘Ethernet’ and said it was ‘Disabled’ (Note: On my Windows 7 machine it’s called ‘Local Area Connection’, so the name may vary depending on your version of Windows).
  5. Right-click the grayed out icon, then click Enable.
  6. With luck, all the connections will re-establish themselves, as they did for me.

One other thing to try is:

  1. Right-click the network icon in the System Tray on the Taskbar (or go to Control Panel).
  2. Click Open Network and Sharing Center.
  3. If you’re meant to be on a domain, but the View Your Active Networks icon has Public Network below it instead, click that Public Network link and then select Work (or Home) network.

Things I tried that DIDN’T work:

  • Rebooted the PC (this often solves many problems)
  • Rebooted the router (I didn’t think this would work as the other computers had internet access, but tried it anyway)
  • Removed the network cable from the back of the PC and clicked it back in again
  • Rebooted the network hub
  • Removed the network cable from the network hub and clicked it back in again
  • Checked that the network cable plugged into the PC had a flashing green light — it did
  • Removed the network cable from the PC and replaced it with another cable plugged into the network hub that I knew worked (by this stage, I was thinking it was likely the network card that had stopped working); yes, the green light flashed for that one too, but still I didn’t get a connection. It was at this point that I called my PC Guru guys.