Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

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Using Logitech Capture software with a Logitech C270 webcam

March 3, 2021

The Logitech C270 webcam is very limited in its settings. You can adjust it a little (see this earlier blog post of mine: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2020/07/29/logitech-c270-webcam-settings/), but you can’t use the more advanced Logitech Capture software (https://www.logitech.com/en-au/product/capture) with the C270 ‘out of the box’. According to the requirements on that Logitech Capture webpage, the C270 is not supported hardware for that software, and if you download the software anyway, it won’t recognise your C270 webcam.

However, one of my readers, Collin, in a comment on my original post, described how to get Capture to work with the C270. I’ve rewritten his instructions below, adding some screenshots and things I found when I followed them. These instructions are for Windows 10.

  1. Download the Capture software from the Logitech website.
  2. Virus check the exe file (as you should with any software you download), then install it.
  3. On the Start button, search for and open Device Manager.
  4. Expand Cameras or Imaging Devices (on my computer, my webcam was listed under Imaging Devices—I didn’t have Cameras listed at all).
  5. Right-click on the name of the webcam and select Properties.
  6. On the Properties window, click the Details tab.
  7. Click the dropdown arrow next to the Property field and select Hardware Ids.
  8. The IDs are listed and you will need these in later steps. You can either leave this window open (easiest) or copy them to Notepad (or a similar text editor). The settings for MY webcam are shown below—your VID or PID values may be different, so don’t use those in this screenshot.
  9. Now you need to change the Capture configuration file to add your webcam to the list of supported cameras. Go to the C:\Program Files\Logitech\LogiCapture\bin folder.
  10. Find the LogiCapture.exe.config file.
  11. Optional: Just to be safe, copy this file and rename the copy as z_original_LogiCapture.exe.config—if things don’t work, you can always delete the file you’re about to modify, then remove the z_original_ part of this file’s name to revert back to the original.
  12. Open the LogiCapture.exe.config file in Notepad (or a similar text editor; I use EditPlus).
  13. Press Ctrl+F to open the Find window.
  14. In the Find What field, type HD Pro Webcam C920, then click Find.
  15. The first line found will start with <device guid= and end with that device’s name.
  16. Put your cursor in front of <device guid= for that line, then select from there to the first </device> line you find. (My Edit Plus software shows line numbers and the first line is 301 and the last line for the settings for that device is line 389, so you’ve got a bit of scrolling to do).
  17. Once you’ve selected that whole section for that device, copy it.
  18. Go to the end of the </device> line from Step 16 above, press Enter to create a new line, then paste the selected lines for the original device.
  19. You now need to modify this new section. Don’t worry—you only have to change information on the first line.
  20. In this new section, change the name from Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 to Logitech HD Webcam C270 (or whatever YOUR device is called in Device Manager—refer back to the open Device Manager window to get the exact name).
  21. The other two things you may have to change are the VID and PID values in the first line. Again, go back to the list of Device Manager hardware IDs for your device. In my case (the screenshot in Step 8), the VID ID was 046D and that was already listed in my first line, so I didn’t need to change it. However, the original PID was 082D and I needed to change that to 0825 (remember, YOUR values may be different). My changes looked like this:
  22. Save the file. You may be asked to save with Admin privileges—click the option to do so.
  23. Check the file name still ends with .config and not .config.txt—if it ends with .txt, delete that part of the file name and click OK when you get the warning that this could make the file unusable.
  24. You can now close Device Manager and any text editor program you have open.

Confirm that Capture can see your C270 webcam

  1. Open the Logitech Capture software.
  2. When you first open it, no source (i.e. camera) is selected—you have to tell the software what webcam you’re using.
  3. Click Source 1 in the left panel.
  4. Click the arrow next to None to see all available Logitech webcams you have installed.
  5. Assuming you followed all the instructions above correctly, you should see your Logitech C270 webcam listed.
  6. Select it. Your webcam will turn on.
  7. You can now use all the setting options in the left panel to adjust light, zoom etc. As you change the settings, the camera image on the right changes to reflect those settings. NOTE: Collin recommended that you DON’T change the resolution to anything higher than 720p (the default for me); in his words ‘it will just look like crap’. He also said that some other settings may be incompatible, but only trial and error will show what they are. All the settings I tried for 720p resolution seemed to work, except those that are locked unless you are signed into Logitech.

Again, thank you Collin for the information that allowed me to use Capture software with my ‘unsupported’ Logitech webcam.

[Links last checked March 2021]

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Webroot taking up most of CPU

January 13, 2021

On bootup this morning, the fan noise indicated that my computer’s CPU was burdened with some resource-hungry process. Task Manager showed me Webroot—a program I’ve used for several years without a single issue—was using between 60 and 90% of CPU resources. I figured it was doing some sort of scan in the background and listened for it to finish. It didn’t (I waited an hour).

Other things I checked while Webroot was active:

  • System tray icon — missing
  • Right-click option to scan a particular folder/file — the option was there, but nothing happened when I clicked it
  • Open Webroot — wouldn’t open
  • Searched Google for possible solutions — several were listed on the Webroot forums, including reinstalling the program. However, I decided to try the least invasive first, which was reboot my computer.

After restarting my computer, all was well:

  • The CPU fans were no longer going crazy and the Webroot CPU usage was around 2% or less
  • System tray icon was back
  • Right-click scan of a file worked
  • Webroot program opened without issue.

So, a simple reboot worked for me.

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Foxtel: Smartcard is not authorised

December 21, 2020

I have a love/hate relationship with Foxtel (or Fuxtel as we tend to call it), Australia’s main ‘cable’ TV provider. Last night was not the love side of the equation. At around 8:38pm, Western Australian time, the recorded program we were watching suddenly stopped and was replaced by a F114 error message that said ‘This Smartcard is not authorised’. What?

My immediate thought was that the replacement IQ4 box (which still hasn’t arrived some 11 days after ordering it; initial phone call from Alex at Foxtel offering the IQ4 box and activation for free was 26 Nov 2020; called 9 Dec 2020 to take up the offer and order the IQ4 from Jack) and package was now in play, even though I’d asked the sales person on 9 Dec 2020 if we could wait until after Christmas/early January before installing the new box and had clearly been told that we could. Then I thought about the date—we get direct debited from our credit card around the 20th to 22nd of each month, and this was the night of the 20th.

I did what the message said and called Foxtel, expecting they had 24/7 technical support. They don’t. (I found out today that tech support is 8am to 10pm Melbourne time, 7 days a week—10pm Melbourne time is 7pm Perth time. Thanks Fuxtel. And checking the support area on their website gave no information as to the possible reason for this message that related to what we saw.)

I called again this morning (Monday). The tech support person tried to send a message to my Foxtel box, but I saw nothing on screen as she had expected. Then she got me to read out the serial number and smartcard number and told me that she didn’t have those numbers on her screen for our account (!!!). She asked if we had a second box—we do, it’s in the bedroom and we never use it, so I’d turned it off months ago. She said that second box was listed with them as the primary box, and because the new billing cycle is for the IQ4 box and because we weren’t getting a replacement second IQ4 box to replace the second IQ2 box, our primary box (which Foxtel considers our secondary box) got deactivated as the new billing cycle/plan kicked in.

She asked me to wait 30 mins to 2 hours for the reactivation request she had put through to come through, and said she would call after about 30 mins to an hour to check. I’ve already waited close to on a hour, and the ‘smartcard is not authorised’ message is still on the screen.  And I haven’t received a call back.

She did confirm that we could install the new IQ4 box at any time—it would only get activated once we called them, and that the activation would be instant. It’s a pity the re-activation for our current IQ2 box isn’t instant too!

Update: She called again just over an hour later. Still nothing, so she re-authorised again and within seconds all was back as it should be. Or so we thought—see ‘And the saga continues’ secton below.

Update on the IQ4 box: It was ordered on 9 December, and we were told and had emails to say it would take ‘1 to 10 days’. Today (21 Dec) is Day 12 and no box. But I did get a message about 2:30pm today that the box has now been dispatched from the warehouse, wherever that is…. AusPost’s system doesn’t yet have the tracking number Fuxtel gave me, so I can’t even see where it’s being sent from let alone when it might arrive. Further update 22 Dec: The new IQ4 box is scheduled to be delivered between 5 and 14 January. Certainly not ‘1 to 10 days’ as stated by the Foxtel person I ordered it from, nor the email I received. Further update 31 Dec 2020: The new IQ4 box arrived today.

And the saga continues…

We sat down to watch TV on the night of 21 Dec 2020, expecting all to be as it was prior to the disconnection/reconnection. Well, some things worked, but some major functions didn’t:

  • Anything recorded onto the IQ2 box’s hard drive before 20 Dec was no longer available. It was listed, but we just got an error message when we tried to view it. NOTE: This box is INSIDE OUR HOUSE and the recordings are stored IN THE BOX. This is not some live connection to the satellite.
  • No On Demand functions work, and I don’t think we can go back in time for 24 hours to watch something we may have missed either. So we can’t even watch via catch up the programs we’d recorded before 20 Dec.
  • The Favourites list is all screwed up and seems to reflect a list from years ago. I re-added Favourites channels, but nothing held. I didn’t get any message that these wouldn’t be saved—they just weren’t.
  • New recordings and series linked recordings seem to work for now, but I’m not sure if we will lose those too.

As we discovered this loss of functionality before 7pm, I called Foxtel tech support. After 45 minutes on hold I got put through to a support person who explained that the reason we didn’t have these functions is that we were on a ‘temporary signal’ (whatever that means—it’s a signal from a satellite, so I don’t know how it can be ‘temporary’!). She indicated that it was because the second unused IQ2 box was considered our primary box (by them, not us) and so they’d auto disconnected what they thought was the secondary box. She admitted it was Foxtel’s fault and that they messed up. Ya think!?? A quick 10-second phone call from them would’ve have told them which box we considered our primary box and prevented all this!!!

So, we cannot do anything except watch Foxtel in real time for at least the next few weeks until the IQ4 box arrives and is installed (actually, recordings seem to be working, as do series link recordings). We’ve had a Platinum Plus pack and been loyal customers for 20+ years, yet according to tech support NOTHING can be done to restore our functions.

When I asked about what happens if we have a power outage (as sometimes happens here, even just for a few seconds), I was told we’ll lose the Foxtel signal again and will have to have it restored. Of course, if an outage happens after 7pm, we won’t be able to get it restored until the following day as Foxtel tech support finishes at 7pm for Western Australian customers. Not impressed. Update 31 Dec 2020: We had two power outages after I originally wrote this—one for a few seconds, which reset the Foxtel box, and one for about 45 mins, which also reset it. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go through the process of reactivating, as both outages were outside Foxtel’s support hours.

We are VERY angry at this mess that ISN’T OUR FAULT. A single phone call to ask us which box we no longer wanted prior to disconnecting anything would have averted all these issues.

Making a complaint

To add insult to injury, I decided to lodge a complaint with Foxtel on 22 December. The only way to do that is via their standard phone number for everything or via the complaints form on their website. There are character limits for the complaint text on the form, so I made sure that I was well under that limit. I completed all fields, mandatory or not, and did the CAPTCHA thing, then clicked Submit. And got this error message: You don’t have permission to access http://www.foxtel.com.au/bin/foxtel/genericForm on this server. Reference #18.98464868.1608627165.1ec5ba69

Great. You can’t even complain to them!

I tried this form several times with the same result, whether I was logged into my Foxtel account or not. And just in case the character limits were wrongly described on the form, I tried it with a very small amount of text—still got an error. I contacted @FOXTEL_Help on Twitter, and was told VPNs often cause this, but I DON’T USE A VPN!! I haven’t heard back from the Twitter account again. (Update 23 December, afternoon: Heard back from Twitter account, suggested try a different browser, tried on Firefox—same error)

Wednesday 23 December: I tried the online complaints form again—same error. So then I called the 131999 phone number and asked for ‘Complaints’ and got put through to tech support. Again.

I explained to the tech support person that the online complaints form wasn’t working, that our new box still wasn’t here, and, most importantly, that we had lost major functions on the box—functions that worked perfectly fine on 20 December. He said he would escalate it for me and typed up the complaint himself (which I haven’t seen, so I have no idea what he typed). He gave me a complaint case number, and said someone would call me within 24 to 48 hours. Yeah, right—that lands right in Christmas and unless someone calls later today or tomorrow, I doubt I’ll hear from them before 27 December. They have my mobile number, my landline number, and my email address. And hopefully all the text from the support people about what has happened. Update 31 Dec 2020: Someone called on Christmas Day, right in the middle of Christmas lunch. I didn’t take the call as it was from a Melbourne number I didn’t recognise—and it was Christmas Day! Based on the voicemail left for me, I called the number back later that day, only to get a message saying that the phone number wasn’t attended and that someone would get back to me. No-one did. I called again on 30 Dec 2020, got tech support again, quoted my complaint number, and he told me he had emailed the supervisor who the complaint had escalated to (the same person who called me Christmas Day), and had requested that she contact me ASAP. It’s now 31 December and no-one has contacted me. Update: It’s now 6 January and still no-one has contacted me.

NONE of this would have been necessary if they’d just called and asked which box we used and were going to replace. And this question probably should have been asked by the initial sales person who had asked at the time whether we wanted to continue with two boxes.

One other thing… the online complaints form asks what resolution we would like. Simple, really—We want ALL our old functions restored and working until we receive and install the IQ4 box (due mid-January, some 6 weeks since ordering). If that’s not possible, we would like at least 3 months subscription compensation for this inconvenience, right at Christmas time when we’d saved up movies etc. to watch while on leave. We can no longer access these as we can’t access any recordings or On Demand functions. And a year’s free subscription to Netflix.

Update 6 January 2021: My cabling guy came yesterday afternoon and swapped out out the old IQ2 box for the new IQ4 box. That process was simple. The rest? Not so much… I did the activation by phone (all voice activated, no person to speak to), and after a couple of restarts I had the home screen. But as soon as I tried to access a channel, I got an ‘Update Required’ message with no info as to how to do that. I called Foxtel tech support, and the helpful woman at the other end of the line got me to read out the serial number and version number and SIM number—she said that the software needed to be updated (it was a BRAND NEW box!), and got that in motion. She said it would take 15 to 60 mins before I had full functionality again, and to call back if it still didn’t work. The box rebooted itself a couple more times, then I was back to the Home screen after about 20 mins. I checked the settings, which listed a later version and the SIM number info said N/A (it seems there’s no SIM in these new boxes, just an internal smart card). I tried to access a Foxtel channel again, but all I got was an info banner about the channel/program across the screen for a few seconds and black behind it—no picture, no sound. ABC and SBS worked OK, but none of the Foxtel channels worked. Back on the phone to tech support, this time with a 15+ minute wait. The next person to answer my call checked a few more things at her end, said our account was all correct (I’d also received an auto email from Foxtel during the first phone call to tech support that our account was being ‘voluntarily suspended’ [at a cost of $10] for 24 hours!!! She told me to ignore that email). She rebooted the box remotely from her end again, and when it came back I had picture and sound for the Foxtel channels I tried. So far, it all seems to be working. She also helped me pair the Bluetooth for the voice-activated remote. Now we just have to get a handle on the new way of navigating the screen and the redesigned remote control, set the settings to how we want them to be, set up favorite channels, set up the internet connection (I got a text to say that Netflix was included in our package), and rerecord or download some of the programs we missed while it was off the air.

I still haven’t heard back from Foxtel Complaints, some 14 days after making my initial complaint.

Update 8 January 2021: Still no call from Foxtel Complaints… They obviously really care about their customers (not!). However, I discovered that we can use the old IQ2 remote with the new box. Most functions work, except the settings button, as far as I could tell. This is good news for my husband who hates learning new things, so he’ll be happy with that old remote, while I use the new one.

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Logitech C270 webcam settings

July 29, 2020

In a previous post (https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/using-zoom-to-record-a-presentation-with-no-audience/), I mentioned that I purchased a Logitech C270 webcam for doing webinars, presentations (both on Zoom), video calls (Skype) etc. from my Windows 10 computer.

Although the webcam worked perfectly well out of the box and without any instructions, I’ve now downloaded the user manual and software for it, installed the software, and fiddled with the software’s settings. You can get the Logitech Camera Settings software for the C270 from here: https://support.logi.com/hc/en-us/articles/360024692954–Downloads-HD-Webcam-C270, and the Getting Started manual from here: http://www.logitech.com/assets/46735/2/hd-webcam-c270.pdf. You may find you don’t need either if the camera works fine for you.

User manual

Seriously, don’t bother! Although my camera’s model/firmware etc. is dated 2020 (see below), the Getting Started manual only has instructions for Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 (Windows 8 came out in 2012!). The box has a single page illustrated ‘getting started’ sheet that shows you where to plug stuff. I thought the manual would have more; after all, the PDF had 168 pages. However, when I checked the table of contents, only pages 3 to 11 were in English, with the rest for 17 other languages. So there’s only 8 pages to read, but in reality it’s fewer than that: 2 pages of generic setup (as per the illustrated sheet in the box), 3 pages for Windows 8 (nothing for Windows 10, so while the webcam may be new, these instructions haven’t been updated), and 3 pages for Windows 7 and Vista. That means only 5 pages to read, some of which I’d already read from the sheet in the box. I only read the Windows 8 information, but this information was so out of date it was mostly useless for Windows 10. It talked about features in the Windows Camera app that no longer seem to exist, and referred to all sorts of things that just don’t apply to Windows 10 (e.g. Charms bar, Microsoft SkyDrive, Metro apps).

Logitech Camera Settings software (Build 2.10.4.0)

After installing the software, I opened it. There’s no Help file at all, so I winged it with the settings. I’ve documented below what the default settings were for my camera. (NOTE: Your default settings may vary, depending on the light source, room lighting, etc. I believe the camera auto adjusts to this. I tested with mid-morning winter sunlight coming through my home office window—my office faces west, so there was no direct light; there was also reflected light from my two monitors, plus the two monitors on my right that I use for my main client’s laptop, and a ‘cool white’ LED light in the ceiling directly above my keyboard).

The information icon revealed this information about my camera:

CAMERA INFORMATION

  • USB Vendor ID (VID): 0X046D
  • USB Product ID (PID): 0X0825
  • Firmware version: 7.1.1011
  • EEPROM version: 1.27
  • Firmware CRC: 0XF3E0
  • Sensor version: 2.0

APPLICATION INFORMATION

  • Build: 2.10.4.0
  • Copyright: 1996-2020 Logitech Inc.

Now to the settings. There are two tabs at the top of the screen—Home and Advanced, and you can only adjust light settings, not the microphone. Any settings you change are shown in real-time in the preview window. There’s no option to save the settings—they seem to save automatically. When you close then re-open the software, the settings are the same as when you last adjusted them. There’s also a big Restore defaults button if you happen to mess things up. The settings below were the defaults, and the information in parentheses shows what effect changing those settings had, for me; they may have different effects for you.

HOME

  • Image: Standard (selecting Widescreen added more space around my face; Standard seems perfect for webinars)
  • Anti Flicker: (nothing selected) I selected NTSC 60 Hz, but couldn’t see how to turn that off. When I closed then re-opened the software, PAL 50 Hz was selected. Later, after adjusting the Advanced settings, I went back to the Home screen and NTSC 60 Hz was selected again. I don’t know what controls this, and I don’t know what difference this makes to the video output.
  • The zoom in (+) button on the preview window does exactly that, and once zoomed in, the zoom out (-) button becomes available
  • I’m not sure what the central target and the side and top/bottom arrows do on the image of the face in the preview window—you can’t move them with the mouse. They may just be for visually centering your image in the frame.

ADVANCED

  • Brightness: 50% (lowering the brightness darkened the background a bit, as well as my face, but my face was still lit OK; I left it at 50%)
  • Contrast: 12% (7% made the office shelves behind me more their natural colour, but reddened and blurred my face; 25% made the office shelves look black and was way too bright for my face; I left it at 12%)
  • Color intensity: 12% (lowering this value washed out the colour; 25% gave me a very red face; about 15% was just right—it added a bit of pink to my face, but not too much; I left it 12%)
  • Auto White Balance: ON and 3690K (turned OFF, it added white light to my face, then with AutoBalance OFF, at ~2000K my face was a washed-out grey, but at around 8000K the tones were more natural; I set this to OFF and set the white balance to about 8000K)

Finally, when I was looking for instructions for this software, I came across this YouTube video that shows you how to change the autofocus of this webcam to manual focus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLEbDPbOGpQ. WARNING: This video shows you how to open and adjust the focus ring, after snapping off the bit of glue holding it in place. You may not want to do this, and you’re likely to void any warranty if you do. My aim in sharing this link is for those who need to manually adjust the focus for a specific purpose (for example, the person who made this video is an artist and they needed to change the focus to the paper instead of their hands).

Update March 2021: You can use Logitech’s Capture software with this webcam (which isn’t normally supported) if you make some tweaks to the Capture config file. See Collin’s comment from March 2021 below, or, for full instructions, with screenshots, see this blog post: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2021/03/03/using-logitech-capture-software-with-a-logitech-c270-webcam/

[Links last checked March 2021]

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Video cables don’t seem to work

August 10, 2019

I’ve been having a big refresh of the computer hardware in my office—new server, new PCs, etc. Some of the previous hardware was more than 10 years old, and nothing was less than 6 years old, so it was time. All PCs now have Windows 10 and Office 365.

I spent quite a bit of time on my back underneath desks plugging everything in. But for some reason, the video cables weren’t working for the second monitor. I tried them all—VGA, DVI, and HDMI (yes, I have quite the collection!). Nothing. Darn—maybe the video card was faulty, but I doubted this was the case as it happened on each PC. I rebooted the PCs, but that didn’t help. I could see the first monitor, but not the second.

Then I tried turning the second monitor off and back on again—aha! That worked!

It wasn’t the video cables or the video card at all. The monitor had to restart to recognise the cable.

Simple, once I’d figured it out.

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Webpage in Chrome won’t print in color on Brother MFC-9120CN

February 23, 2015

This information applies to Brother MFC-9120CN printers and Google Chrome, and a situation where no matter how many times you select to print in color via Chrome, the webpage only prints in black and white.

After some experimenting I figured out why my pages wouldn’t print in color.

I have my printer set to print in ‘mono’ (black and white/grayscale) by default to save on using expensive color cartridges when they aren’t required for many print jobs. If I need to print in color, I change that setting in the printer properties. But in Google Chrome, you can’t access your printer’s properties — you have to use the Chrome settings. No matter how many times I chose ‘Color’ in Chrome, the printout would be in black and white. The same webpage would print in color from Firefox and Internet Explorer, so I figured it was something that Chrome was doing.

But it was actually the printer that was dictating how the webpage would print — its ‘mono’ setting was overriding the ‘Color’ setting in Chrome.

Once I changed the printer default to ‘auto’, rebooted the printer, and rebooted my PC (just to make sure), and did another test print of a webpage from Chrome, the ‘Color’ option in Chrome and the ‘auto’ setting on the printer played nice together and I got a color printout.

As a further test, I kept the printer default set to ‘auto’ and selected the ‘Black and White’ option in Chrome… the webpage printed in color, completely ignoring my selection in Chrome. So my printer settings are overriding whatever I select in Chrome.

In summary:

  • If the default color setting for printer is set to mono, then choosing ‘Color’ in Chrome prints the page in grayscale (the ‘Black and White’ setting in Chrome appears to work, but as the printer is set to mono, that’s to be expected)
  • If the default color setting for printer is set to auto, then choosing ‘Black and White’ in Chrome prints the page in grayscale (‘Color’ setting in Chrome appears to work, but as the printer is set to auto, that’s to be expected)

At least I now know why.

Update later the same day: I had put in a support request to Brother on this late last week, but initially they denied it was an issue. After I did my tests and told them what I did, they’ve now confirmed they can replicate it. The support person at Brother also gave me this information:

I have also come across this link with people experiencing the same issue with other brands of printers as well: https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/chrome/trn2QbAGjxI

I have found that when using the standard PCL driver, the setting will not work.

You can either use the Windows Printer Dialogue box by pressing Ctrl + Shift + P to print. This will allow you to change the setting through the driver.

Or, you can download and install the Br Script driver and use it when printing from Chrome: http://support.brother.com/g/b/downloadend.aspx?c=au&lang=en&prod=mfc9120cn_all&os=93&dlid=dlf004795_000&flang=4&type3=414

[Links last checked February 2015]

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Telstra to T-Mobile settings on phone

March 21, 2013

This post is for me, in case I ever lose the notebook in which this information is jotted down! And for anyone else in Australia who has a Telstra HTC Sensation phone who is going to the US and wants to purchase a US SIM card from T-Mobile so they can use their own phone while away.

For the past two years, I have purchased a ‘pay per day’ SIM from T-Mobile for the short trips I’ve made to the US (see http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/pay-by-the-day-cell-phone-plans for these plans). For just $2 or $3 per day, I get unlimited calls, texts, and internet while in the US. A 14-day US trip at $3 per day costs me less than $50, compared to potentially $1000 or more if I use my Telstra SIM and global roaming in the US. (See this horror story of a $12,000 Telstra global roaming bill for 13 days in Thailand: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/victorian-man-hit-with-12k-roaming-bill-after-thailand-holiday/story-e6frfkp9-1226618187589)

The biggest disadvantage is that I ‘lose’ my own phone number for the time I’m away (I get allocated a new US number each visit), and I have to find a T-Mobile store. Finding a T-Mobile store is not difficult as there are many of them. I believe you can get the ‘pay per day’ SIM activation kit from other locations, such as supermarkets, but I choose to get it direct from a T-Mobile store so that the store person can set everything up and test it all before I leave the store. A supermarket is unlikely to give you that sort of assistance.

Here’s what will happen in the T-Mobile store

After you’ve purchased the ‘pay per day’ kit (just ask for it — it’s not a box on the shelf), the store assistant will take out your HTC battery and Telstra SIM (DO NOT LOSE YOUR SIM!!! You’ll need it when you get back to Australia, so store it in a safe place, such as in a little zip lock bag placed near your passport or in your wallet). They will then insert the T-Mobile SIM and replace your battery and turn on the phone. They may also have to call a T-Mobile head office number and give/get a code to activate the phone.

Test that your phone can call out by calling the store’s landline number from your phone, then get the assistant to use the landline to call your new number. That’s all pretty straightforward and should work straight away. Likewise, you should get a text message or two from T-Mobile within minutes, welcoming you to their service and telling you how much balance you have on your plan. To test that you can send texts, SMS a US friend or the T-Mobile assistant who is serving you. Your phone and SMS are now working — so far, so good…

The final test is to see if you can get internet connection, so open the browser on your phone and do a search. However, if my experience is anything to go by, it’s unlikely you’ll connect as there are a couple of things you/the assistant may still have to do (see below), and because it can take a couple of hours for the internet connection to work properly (or so I’ve been told at two different T-Mobile locations in two different states in two different years; my experience has been that after the settings are entered, I can usually get internet connection within a minute or so).

If you can get a connection straight away, you’re done and don’t need to read any further. Enjoy your cheap US phone/text/internet time in the US, and don’t forget you can now use your ‘US’ HTC/Android phone as a tethered modem to avoid exorbitant hotel charges for internet access (these only seem to occur in the expensive hotels — most mid-range hotels in the US have free internet/WiFi).

If you can’t get internet connection, make sure the assistant enters the information below into your phone (or do it yourself if you’ve already left the store).

HTC/Android settings for internet connection via T-Mobile

  1. Turn off WiFi for now (Settings > WiFi > Off).
  2. Go to: Settings > Mobile Network > Access Point Names.
  3. Tap the menu icon on the APNs screen then tap New APN. Complete the following details:
  4. Name: tmobile (NO hyphen) (see notes below if this doesn’t work)
  5. APN: epc.tmobile.com (see notes below if this doesn’t work)
  6. Proxy: 216.155.165.050
  7. Port: 8080
  8. MMSC: http://mms.msg.eng.t-mobile.com/mms/wapenc
  9. MMSC proxy (you may not need this one): 216.155.165.050
  10. MMS port (you may not need this one either): 8080
  11. Save the settings. Your internet connection should now work (though it may take a few minutes or up to an hour to do so, according to T-Mobile)

NOTE: If these settings don’t work, try changing:

  • the APN to fast.T-mobile.com and removing the proxy and port numbers
  • the name to T-Mobile US LTE
  • If you can’t get it to work, call 611 in the US to speak to a T-Mobile support person.

Changing back to your Telstra settings

  1. Before the plane takes off for Australia, switch your phone to Airplane mode, then turn it off as required by the FAA. By putting it into Airplane mode before you leave, when you turn it back on it won’t try to make any sort of connection to T-Mobile (or to Telstra once you’ve got their SIM back in).
  2. Once you’re in the air (or on the ground when you arrive if you forgot to put your Telstra SIM into your carry-on luggage!), remove the cover from your phone and flip out the battery.
  3. Remove the T-Mobile SIM and replace it with your Telstra SIM. (You can throw the T-Mobile SIM away when you get home as it’s useless unless activated and you’ve probably only purchased and activated enough days for your trip.)
  4. When you arrive back in Australia, turn the phone back on and switch off Airplane mode. It should all work as normal, as the Telstra APN settings are the default and should reset automatically once your phone picks up that you’re in Australia. At least, that’s how it’s been for me for the past two years — even though I wrote down all the Telstra APN settings, I’ve never had to change them back as they’ve automatically reset themselves.

Happy travelling!

See also:

[Links last checked April 2013]