Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fix missing audio in cable boxes

So, you were watching TV using your cable box adapter and all of a sudden lost the audio completely. You checked connections, your TV is not muted, you unplugged the cable box and plugged it back in 5 minutes. Nothing helps. At the same time other devices work fine on the same HDMI input of your television. Seems that you are out of options and must call Comcast support. Well, not really!

I have seen this problem twice on two completely different setups and was able to fix it both times. The first time I figured it out was actually forty minutes before the scheduled appointment with a Comcast technician. I contacted their tech support the previous day and they seemed to think that the only option was to send a guy and probably replace the device. Here is what I did instead.

It occurred to me that maximum sound is the sound to which no signal modifications has been applied. Wouldn't it make sense to bring the volume ALL THE WAY UP to reset sound decoding on a cable box? Whether or not this theory is valid, it works. I really wish Comcast told me about this trick. On my DC60x I simply raised the volume using the cable box remote to 60 (the maximum value). I suppose you could even mute your TV while doing it, so it's not too loud. Like I said, this worked on two different setups. My next door neighbors had the same exact thing happen to their cable box and I was able to tell them what to do over the phone (I did not bother going outside). This tells me that this is a common problem and that my solution will work for many people with the same issue. Of course, your experience may vary. Maybe you will need to have your cable box replaced. I did not, so far.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

eBook readers for Pandigital Novel

After I successfully installed the Android version of the Pandigital Novel firmware, I have been really enjoying this device. I just don't particularly like the pre-installed Barnes & Noble app. It does not have a way to open files on the SD card without first going through a lengthy import process. Plus, the fonts don't look all that great.

Now, as you may or may not know, Pandigital Novel uses Android 1.5 which is rarely supported by Android developers. After a long search I was able to find an app called Laputa which had better fonts, but the interface seemed rather strange to me. Today I decided to see if anything has changed in the recent month. Turns Linkout, the highly-rated FBReader app is now available in an Android 1.5 version. You have to go to developer's site to get it ( Nicer fonts and other controls, but most importantly a build-in file manager. Now I can open FBReader, navigate to whatever file I need on the SD card and start reading it right away! There are some features that are only useful for Russian speakers, but that is often the case with mobile devices apps.
I have to add that it is nice to have all three apps on my Pandigital Novel - this way I can read three books independently, without having to reopen them all the time. That's just the kind of reader I am...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pandigital Novel firmware update problem solved

When I first got the Pandigital Novel (2gb black model) it came with a notice in the package advising the user to upgrade the firmware. I went to the website and downloaded the required updated program, followed the steps and discovered that no matter what I do the firmware version remains the same. It almost looked as if something was wrong with the device. When Pandigital came out with a new version of the firmware that promised to turn it into a fully functional Android tablet I decided to try my luck again. Same results. Finally, someone suggested that instead of the default version of the firmware that the official updated comes up with I choose the "Polaris" update from the drop-down menu. To my amazement this worked. More importantly, when the system was installing the update the version listed was actually the same exact one that the updater tried to install before. So, now I have a nice little Android tablet. This is no iPad, of course, but still very cool and useful.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Toshiba 40FT1U review and manual

Just got a new Toshiba 40FT1U at Costco. An excellent 40'' 1080p set! I liked the picture quality the most out of a number of comparable TVs. There is only one feature that this TV does not have, but I must admit that it's more a legacy device issue than anything else. There is no coaxial audio out, only optical. Probably fine for most modern home theaters, but not for mine. This means that I will not be able to feed surround sound broadcast audio into my home theater. My BluRay player has coaxial out, so I will feed it directly into the home theater system.

As usual, Costco tries to hide the actual model number of this television, for fear that consumers will find the same products for less at other stores. I only buy my TVs from Costco, because their no-hassle 2-year warranty is simply outstanding. But if you want to research 40FT1U some more you only need to know that this is pretty much the same model as Toshiba 40E200U.

Toshiba 40E200U pdf manual

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pandigital Novel black and white -- review and manuals

First of all, the black and white models of Pandigital Novel are not the same device. When given a choice, go for the white one. It has better hardware and a newer Android version.

I happen to have a black version. My first impression was not so great. Since I wanted an ebook reader primarily to read public domain versions of old books in PDF format, this was my first test. I loaded a file and quickly discovered that it was very difficult to flip pages. Eventually I realized that Pandigital creates an off-screen version of the next page every time a page loads. While this is happening, you cannot flip pages. Rendering PDF pages (essentially images!) can take a long time. Hence the problem. If you are simply reading the text, however, you will not be noticing much. So, that's the good news.

Of course, general responsiveness of the device is not ideal. I have seen this with many similar Android platforms. Basically, if you need something like an iPad, you will have to pay the iPad price. Also, at the moment Pandigital lacks font management. The fonts don't look all that great and I think that simply using different typefaces could improve things a lot. Again, I have seen similar issues with other Android devices.

The US version of Pandigital Novel is locked down. You cannot install any additional apps. So, it is not a fully-fledged Android.

The bottom line is that Pandigital Novel can be idea if you need exactly what it purports to be: a simple ebook reader. I wanted to be able to read more books in more locations. Having a device that can do too much would be counterproductive. I would end up doing something other than reading in most cases.

Download Pandigital Novel (white) Manual (pdf)
Download Pandigital Novel (black) Manual (pdf)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

iPod Classic white screen

A few weeks ago I turned on my iPod Classic 160gb and all I saw was a white screen. This is a common problem, I believe. The usual solutions are resetting the device and restoring it to factory settings. Neither one worked. Curiously, the iPod still played music. Someone suggested that running down the battery could fix the problem. Well, that's not so easy. Even after the device no longer had the juice to play anything, it remained responsive. Finally, I made appointment at the Genius Bar. After looking at my iPod and determining that there was no water damage, they told me that they will replace it. In a couple of days they called and said that the replacement has arrived. The key thing here was making sure that you have registered your iPod with the correct purchase date. This indicated when the warranty started. Interesting, nobody ever checked if I had a receit from Costco where the device was purchased.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Philips DCM109/37 Cube Micro Music System Dock for iPod/iPhone

Just bought a Philips Cube DCM109/37, primarily to use with iPods and iPhones. I am no audiophile, but to my taste the sound coming out of these speakers is very satisfactory. Bass, high frequencies, clarity, volume - I am actually quite impressed. The iPod dock is a little bit strange. Instead of a bunch of inserts to match every model of iPods and iPhones ever made, this model has a little plastic piece that pushes on the iPod from behind as it sits on the cradle, keeping it in place. I'd say that it probably pushes too hard, so some unites may get scratched. I think I will end up using the auxiliary input most of the time, and only put my devices on the cradle when they are being used for a long time. In general, it seems like the iPod capability was very much an afterthought - the iPod component is slapped onto the back of the main unit. Not the best visual design in the world, but I will live with it. Philips Cube has a clock display, but the size of the digits is very small, so it is hardly useful as an clock (a very popular application of many iPod docking systems). The round LED display remains softly lit even when the unit is not on, so it may not be the best solution for the bedroom.