Monday, December 24, 2012

Linksys WVC54GCA camera useless from a dead power supply?

My poor little Linksys WVC54GCA network camera recently stopped working on me. After doing a couple of tests, I figured out that it was the ac adapter (power supply). It's supposed to supply 5V, but was outputting about 3.5V. What to do?

After not finding any replacement power supplies on Linksys' website, I decided to try their 'chat support'. I highly DO NOT recommend it. It was an irritating experience. I thought I was being pretty clear in what I was asking, but they were just not getting it, directing me to other strange products. Finally after they realized what I was looking for, they told me that they don't carry replacement power supplies for my camera. Thanks for nothing!

eBay had a bunch of options...ranging from just a few dollars to about $15. Most of those adapters looked a bit sketchy so I didn't really want to take the risk.

A little more thought and I remembered that I have a few 5V adapters that I bought from Sparkfun already! I checked the polarity on the camera and the power supply, and the amps, and they actually match!

Linksys Camera specs

Sparkfun AC Adapter specs - they match!

However, it did not fit in the barrel - the camera's jack is 5.5mmX2.5mm, but my adapter has a 5.5mmX2.1mm barrel connector. :(

First what I tried doing was drilling out the hole in the adapter's connector, but ended up runing the whole thing. :(


Eventually I remembered that I have a bunch of 'barrel' connectors laying around somewhere. I test fitted them, and sure enough, I had a 5.5x2.5 barrel connector. Cool!

Sooo...I cut the end off of my AC Adapter since I ruined the connector anyway, and stripped back some of the wiring. Then I took a pigtail that mates with the 5.5x2.5 barrel connector that I found and connected it. Then I stripped back some of the wiring on the pigtail. A few twists, solder and electrical tape later, I had a functioning power supply for my camera.

Sparkfun adapter with the proper connector now!

I plugged it in, and it worked! Woohoo!

Happy camera (see the blue led?)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

7-Zip saves my hide (at least got me around long paths)

Recently I had the simple task of adding more storage space to a Windows server. As usual, everything went well as far as the hardware installation and the software preparation. However, when it came time to start 'moving' network shares (folders) over to the new drive, I had one (folder) that did not want to copy, giving me the following error almost right off the bat:

Oh snap!

Fortunately, my friend Google never leaves me hanging. The first quick thing to try was to run CHKDSK with the '/f' (fix any errors) option on the source drive. I did, and there were a few corrections made. However, when I tried to copy that folder again, I got the same error. Uh oh.

After more searching I found a helpful Microsoft article:

It presented several possibilities, but only a few that were relevant to my situation. I was able to rule out 1 possibility - file names that had 'reserved names'. An example would be LPT1 or PRN or COM1. I ruled it out by searching for files/folders with those names in it. Of course nothing came up, but that was one of the simplest checks against the possible relevant issues.

Now things were getting a bit ugly. It was down to 2 possibilities: 1. There are one or more files that contain an 'invalid name', or 2. There are one or more paths to folders/files that exceed the 256 character limit. As far as I know, there are no built-in Windows utilities to check for either of these conditions. After poking around in my problem folder's subfolders, I started noticing that there were a couple of folders that had many, many subfolders. It looked like I found the culprit. This is a good and bad thing. Good because now I know what the problem is, but bad because I'm not sure how to get around it.

A little more searching around on Google for programs that could copy folders without the restriction that Windows itself has found me a possible solution - 7-Zip! It is a program that I already have on this particular server as it is the destination file format (.7z) for the nightly/monthly backups. Upon opening the program and initiating a folder copy of that annoying little (ok, not little - it's about 25 GB) folder, it started copying with no problem! Yaaayyy!

Real quick, I'd like to say that 7-Zip is a great compression/decompression utility with better compression than .zip files, supports a bunch a formats, and is free! Check it out - it's better than the other ZIP/compression utilities that I've tried (including commercial ones).

Well, I hope that this helps someone out there. Feel free to leave any comments/suggestions below.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Philips Pronto TSU3000 Universal programmable remote resurrected

Update 1/26/13 - I just uploaded a full video tutorial on how to take apart your remote, perform the fix, and re-assemble. See the very bottom of this post for the video.

The beautiful remote shown below is the Philips Pronto TSU3000 remote. It is an incredibly flexible and powerful remote. Brand new I think they sold for around $350-$400 (depending on where you bought them). I picked this one up on eBay a few years ago for around $230. Unfortunately Philips doesn't make them anymore. And even more unfortunately, for mine, the touchscreen stopped working a couple years ago, rendering it pretty much useless.

Philips Pronto TSU3000
Philips Pronto TSU3000
I opened the remote up when it happened a couple of years ago, and had no idea what to look for. I also searched the internet and found that this was a fairly common problem for this particular model of these remotes. (There are several other models, ranging in price and features, but this one is the most common it seems).

The problem, specifically, is that you touch the screen, and it turns on as it should, but after that, is unresponsive to anything else - any buttons that are on the screen will not work. :( The 'hard' buttons still seem to work, but that does no good if you can't select your 'device' from the touchscreen.

Below is a brief video demonstrating the remote's problem:

If you have this remote with this particular problem, read on to learn how to resurrect it...I just resurrected mine, saving me a couple hundred bucks (buying another used one on eBay).

A couple words of caution: You should wear an anti-static wrist strap when performing the following steps. At the very least, don't rub your feet around on the floor (especially if your floor is carpet) while working. If you don't wear the anti-static wrist strap, touch something metal once in a while. Also, try not to touch any of the circuitry/electronics of the remote...only touch edges of the circuit board if you have to. Only touch plastic parts where possible.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any damage you may cause to yourself, your remote, your pet chinchilla, or anything else while performing any of the below work. That being said, it's pretty straight forward, and if you use common sense and caution, everything should go well without any 'incidents'.

One more thing: I am not guaranteeing that this hack will work for you. Even though the 'symptoms' may seem the same, the 'cause' may be different. Or, you may not follow the procedure properly.

Now that all of that stuff is out of the the 'read more' link below to get started!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Arduino - burning chips, saving money...and an important tip!

No, not potato chips...'computer' chips you silly goose!

I'm always looking for ways to save money, and I recently used up one of my last ATMega328 (with the Arduino bootloader pre-programmed on it) chips in a project. I've always been under the impression that to burn the bootloader, it takes extra hardware (pre-built from a retailer) and complicated software configuration/setup.

It turns out it's pretty easy to burn the bootloader yourself. There's a great tutorial that shows you how to do it right on Arduino's website. All you need is an Arduino, a 16MHz crystal, a 10K resistor, and 2 18-22 picofarad (ceramic) capacitors.

Here's a screenshot of the part of the page that shows how to hook everything up:

Here's what it looked like on my breadboard(s):
(You don't need to use 2 breadboards...I was just running out of empty breadboards, so I used the mini-red one and one side of a pre-occupied one)

Where does the money savin' part come in? Well the point of all of this is that you can buy an ATMega328 pre-loaded with the Arduino bootloader on it @ Sparkfun for $5.50. (Note that this is for the Arduino Uno). Orrr, you can buy the chip with no bootloader @ Digikey for $2.88. So would you rather pay $5.50 for a chip with the bootloader already on it, or spend a couple of minutes and pay half that price? I personally would rather pay half the price...I have 2 minutes to spare usually. ;)

I do have 1 tip if you go the route of burning your own bootloader though. There are 2 ways you can set up your new chip on a breadboard. 1 way uses no external parts - just the ATMega328 itself (described at the bottom of their page). The other way (described at the top of their page) uses a few external parts which I mentioned at the top of this article. Go this route! It's a few extra parts to hook up, but it's worth it.

The reason I say go the route with a few extra parts is that the timing will match up with the Arduino board. I first tried the method without any extra parts, and when I put the chip back on my Arduino and uploaded a simple 'blink' ran at what appeared to be 1/2 the speed. :( I'm assuming that because of the internal 8MHz clock of the chip 'conflicts' with the 16MHz crystal on the Arduino. But when you burn the bootloader the way I recommend, you use a 16Mhz crystal for timing, and I had no problems when doing it this way.

If anyone has any questions or comments about this, feel free to leave them. I am also curious if my theory about the timing difference is correct or not. (Regardless, the results are what matters in the end and now I know how I am going to burn the bootloader in the future)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Git is Great!

I've been hearing a lot about Git which is a 'free and open source distributed version control system' (according to Git's official web site), so I dug in a little bit:

There is a lot of great documentation on their site, so I read a little bit. It was a bit confusing to myself not having any background in any kind of version control systems. However, I started to appreciate the potential power of it, so wanted to learn more. I happen to have a subscription, and they happen to have a 6 hour course on it. Over the course of several weeks, I completed the course and now have a greater understanding of it. I just started using it at work (I created and maintain the company's Intranet and Extranet).

The real power of Git is how it allows multiple people to work on a single project. They can all be at the same physical location, or separated physically by thousands of miles. Git is very fast, powerful, takes up little space (the 'program' itself, and the revision history), and to use the basics, it's pretty easy to get started. Oh, and it's available to Linux, Mac and Windows...and did I mention it's free?

I highly recommend it to any kind of coder - web developers, application developers whether you're just one person or on a team.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Welcome to my new blog. I will be posting nerd-type stuff here. To me, it's cool, interesting and fun. To others, well, it's just nerdy.

I plan to have tips, tricks, tutorials on all things nerdy. The scope is too wide to list everything, so just keep checking back here and you'll start to get an idea of what you can expect.