Archive for the ‘Hardware, network etc.’ Category


Loud hum from speakers: Solved

September 13, 2016

I had the devil of a time trying to get rid of a really bad hum in the speakers of a new mini hifi system that I’d connected up to a PC. I could hear the music faintly so I knew I had it connected properly, but that music was totally overridden by the loud hum.

I checked the manual, the manufacturer’s online support (useless) and forums, Dr Google, and tried various online advice about plugging the power cable into the same outlet as the PC, etc. Nothing changed.

Next, I checked listening via the FM radio option — no hum! That was my first clue. I pulled out the ‘audio in’ connection and the hum went away. Clue number two — it was somewhere in the connection from the PC to the unit. I crawled on the floor to the back of the PC, where the audio cable came out just a little too easily… I pushed it back in fully and restarted the hifi. It worked brilliantly — no hum!

Such a simple thing, but it caused me a lot of frustration for an hour. Hopefully this helps someone else.


IP address conflicts

October 30, 2015

This post is for me, so that I remember what happened last time! (If it helps you, that’s a bonus.)

Last night we had a short (2 second) power outage. My computer was turned off at the time, whereas the others were all on and protected by UPSs. This morning, my PC couldn’t connect to anything on the network — no internet, no network drives, no Outlook. One of the messages I saw was about an IP address conflict. The network connector cable was flashing orange on my PC. I rebooted and restarted several times, but to no avail. I checked the other PCs, laptop, and tablet and they all had connection so it wasn’t a problem at the server, the network hub, or the router. Perhaps it wasn’t related to the power outage at all and was a dodgy network card? Or the new phone I got two days ago?

My laptop is connected via WiFi so I was able to do my normal early morning tasks on it while I waited for the guys at PC Guru to start work.

When I called PC Guru, they checked several things, but there was still an issue. My Guru said he could see that there was an unnamed device on the network, but he couldn’t see if the IP address was conflicting with the one on my PC. And then I remembered that there’s an IP address on our Foxtel IQ2 box, and that the box would have reset itself after the power outage! I checked Foxtel’s network settings, and sure enough, their box had picked up a new IP address — the one for my PC! (remember, my PC wasn’t on at the time of the power outage).

It’s all sorted now, and PC Guru have now named the Foxtel connection on the DHCP (??) list.

I guess as households get more and more devices connected to their systems, it will become harder to identify them all, and so the potential for IP address conflicts will increase. It would help if each device had a name in real words that could be easily recognised by real people, instead of just a MAC address and an IP address.


Dust — the enemy of computers

February 16, 2015

I had to take my server in for a RAM upgrade, which meant disconnecting it and preparing it for travel inside the car. One of the things I wanted the PC Guru guys to do was give the server a good clean too. But as I already had it disconnected on the bench, I figured I’d spend a bit of time getting rid of the excess dust so that their clean was targeted at all the inside bits that I either can’t reach or am not confident about cleaning.

One thing I discovered some time back is that the inside of my server stays remarkably dust free. Not so behind the door! The first time I took off the door, I got the shock of my life as it was almost entirely clogged with thick dust. I now know to clean that area regularly to prevent dust clogging up the intake air holes, and thus prevent the server from overheating and the fans from excessive work.

So, this is what ‘behind the door’ looked like when I opened it the other day. Not a huge amount of dust (compared to what I’ve seen before), but still enough to prevent it running as efficiently as possible, especially around the air intake holes at the base and the air holes around the four hard drives.


I cleaned the dust using an old artist’s paintbrush and a Tooltron Micro Applicator Brush, both of which I had wiped on a slightly damp cloth so that the very fine dust wouldn’t escape. Compressed air is no good as it would just blow the dust through those intake holes and into the housing.

Note: Even though the floor of my office is carpeted, the server (and all the PCs) is suspended under the desk, well off the floor. Carpet is a real problem for computers — there’s the dust from the atmosphere AND the carpet, and the potential static electricity.

See also:

[Links last checked February 2015]


Stop Brother laser printer ‘Replace Toner’ message

January 23, 2015

Printer companies want you to buy their toner, and they want you to replace that toner long before it runs out. They do this by various means; typically beeps, popup screens, warning messages on the display panel of the printer etc. How they gauge when the toner needs replacing varies by manufacturer too — some alert you based on number of pages printed (assuming that you are printing an entire page of solid toner every time), others use a laser beam through a hole in the printer cartridge (true! — see this video:, and still others by means I’m not aware of.

My Brother MFC 9210CN (and more recently, my MFC 9330CDW) multifunction laser printer warns me when it decides the toner is running low, and if I don’t replace the toner (either black only or all FOUR colour cartridges at once) within a time/usage frame it considers acceptable, it locks me out from printing by beeping a lot, displaying a ‘Replace toner now’ message on the printer and my computer screen, AND by physically NOT printing my print jobs.

Well, I’m sick of it. There’s plenty of toner left in the cartridges (since when do I fully print a page as I would if I was printing photos every time?). And at more than $100 each (I have five in the machine), replacing cartridges every few months is not cheap.

Off to Google…. where I found out how to reset my printer so that it thinks my cartridges are still fine. I found the answer here:, and it worked. I decided to take photos of the controls and write full instructions for anyone else trying to do this. Maybe I can get another 500+ pages out of my toners this way.

The instructions for the MFC 9330CDW come after the instructions for the MFC 9120CN.

How to reset the toner cartridge settings on a Brother MFC 9120CN

  1. Make sure the printer is turned on.
  2. Open the cover using the blue ‘handle’ at the front of the machine. You don’t need to open it much — you’re not getting into the cartridge area and you’ll need to access the control panel.
  3. Press the Clear/Back button on the control panel.
  4. Press the up or down arrow key to scroll through the list of toners. Note: K = Black, M = Magenta (pink), C = Cyan (blue), and Y = Yellow; each has an option for STD and STR.
  5. When you get to the toner you want to reset, press the OK button. I chose K. TNR-STD to reset the message about my black toner cartridge and allow me to print again.
  6. You get two options for your selected toner — 1 to reset and 2 to exit. Press 1 on the numeric keypad of the control panel to reset the toner.
  7. Close the cover. The printer will go through its warm up cycle again and your beeps, messages, etc. should be gone AND you should be able to print again using your existing cartridge.

Of course, at some point your cartridge(s) will really run out of toner and will need to be replaced. But if you can get another 50 to 500 pages out of your existing toner, you will have saved yourself some money on a replacement you didn’t need at the time the printer told you you needed it.

How to reset the toner cartridge settings on Brother MFC-9330CDW and MFC-9340CDW printers

Some Googling found me this information on how to reset the toner on more recent Brother laser printers:

In case that URL ever goes missing, here’s this information copied from it on 20 March 2016:

  1. Get to the home screen. If you are stuck at the “Toner Low” or “Replace Toner” message, just press the red X.
  2. Press the FAX button on the touch screen (you may also need to press the Sending Faxes icon). This is ONLY to light up the numbers so you can LOCATE and only locate, don’t press, the * (asterisk) button. You know where it is now, somewhere to the right of the red X button. I put a sticky ‘sign here’ note tab to point to the *.
  3. Press the glowing Home button to get home.
  4. Open the top as if you were going to change the toner, but don’t remove any toner.
  5. With the top open, press and hold the now UNLIT * (asterisk) button for at least 5 seconds.
  6. Keep the lid open — the Toner Reset menu will show on the screen.
  7. Reset your ‘low’ or ’empty’ toner by pressing the color and type to reset, all with the lid open. (e.g. cstd or C.TNR.STD = cyan standard, cstr or C.TNR.STR = cyan starter, and one other for high yield [e.g. C.TNR.HC], etc. Just reset to whatever type you have installed. Note: C = cyan [blue], M = magenta [red], Y = yellow, and K= black)
  8. Close the lid and wait about 40 seconds per toner that was reset (i.e. 80 seconds if you reset two toners, 120 seconds if you reset three).
  9. Once the normal touchscreen controls are displayed again, the Toner Low message should be gone. Eventually you will have to replace toner, but you’ll be able to tell by the quality of the print.

NOTE: As at 20 March 2016, I have not tried these instructions, but next time I get a low toner message I will and will report back here.

Update 14 Jul 2016: I got my first toner low message for my three color toners, and have now reset as per the instructions above. So far, so good. Now to see how long before the toner REALLY runs out.

There’s also a YouTube video on resetting the MFC-9330CDW toner:





You can now purchase T-mobile SIM cards in Australia

October 16, 2014

I’ve previously blogged about how I’ve purchased and used T-mobile SIM cards when in the US (search this blog for T-mobile). Well, things have moved on since then and today I was able to purchase a 30-day T-mobile SIM  at Sydney International Airport,  which gives me the usual ‘pay per day’ services I’ve previously had (unlimited US calls,  text,  and data) PLUS free texts to Australia AND free calls to Australian landlines. And for less than the pay per day rate ($80 AUD compared to $90+ USD).

As I’ll be away for about 31 to 32 days, the chap at the SIMCORNER stand in the mall at Sydney airport (near the escalator to the Qantas lounge, as at October 2014) said he’d set activation to happen tomorrow in the US, but normally he’d activate there and then and I’d get my US phone number within 20 minutes. All before leaving Australia.

So, all going well, within a few hours of landing at my final destination in the US, I should get a text that my phone is activated and letting me know my US phone number.

Here’s hoping it’s all as simple as that…  I’ll report back in a few days’ time.

Update: The activation worked fine. BUT I’ve hardly been able to use the phone as I’m staying in a rural area though only some 30 miles from a state capital and there’s NO T-mobile coverage here… Not happy. I thought they were everywhere. And I thought all major cell companies had coverage over much of the US. I’m not in a sparsely populated state (Michigan) and am only 30 miles from Lansing.


Seagate 2TB drive will not do a Windows system image

August 20, 2014

Buyer beware!!

I purchased a Seagate 2TB Expansion external hard disk drive (HDD) on Friday. I tried to do a Windows 7 backup and system image on Sunday, as you do, but it failed with the error message below.


I then spent an hour or so hunting forums etc. to find out that the drive needs to be configured to a 512 byte drive not a 4 KB drive to do system images (Windows 7 backups seem to work OK if you uncheck the system image option). Problem: Even after installing the Microsoft hotfix (see links below), this drive cannot be configured to 512 bytes! (Yes, my friendly PC Guru people helped me with that, but to no avail as it’s a hardware issue.)

So on Monday, I called Seagate Support and they confirmed that this drive is configured as a 4 KB drive, cannot be configured to 512 bytes, and also confirmed that THERE’S NOTHING ON THE PACKAGING or in the box to tell consumers that Windows 7 backup/system image WON’T WORK ON THESE DRIVES but that I could purchase their drives with proprietary backup software installed. I don’t want to do that (I’ve been down that path with Western Digital [WD] drives – not pretty). So this drive is not fit for purpose! Who makes a drive that doesn’t work with the backup/system image utility provided by the world’s biggest operating system? Gee, that’d be Seagate!

I’ve now called the place I bought it from and I can get a full refund on the drive if I bring it back with the packaging and receipt. That’s a 50 km trip for me, so I might consider using it just for data storage and continue doing backups on the WD 1TB drive I’ve been using.

How does Joe Blow Public deal with these issues? He buys an external HDD from a name brand, plugs it in, tries to do the right thing by creating a backup and system image and it fails. And he doesn’t know why or how to find out, and if he finds the 512 bytes versus 4 KB stuff, his eyes glaze over and he realizes he just paid $100 for a door stop!

Some of the sites reporting this issue:

[Links last checked August 2014]


Monitor color differences

May 20, 2014

I was editing a document and noticed how the same color was displayed quite differently between my two monitors. Both monitors are exactly the same — same brand, same size, bought at the same time. But obviously they aren’t calibrated exactly the same, as evidenced by how this mid-gray table header row shading displays on each. On the left monitor, it looks almost blue, and on the right it’s more the gray that it should be.

I took the photo with my phone camera as a screen shot adjusts them to be the same and you can’t see the difference. Guess I need to calibrate my monitors…