Saturday, November 27, 2010

Canon 7D DSLR Camera Doesn't Turn On

Canon EOS 7D 18 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3-inch LCD (Body Only)
This probably can happen to anyone's camera but in my particular case it was a Canon - a Canon 7D...a very expensive Canon 7D that was only about 10 months old.  I was standing by the skating rink in Rockefeller Center in NYC (Yes, 30 Rock) marveling at the golden statue and all of the familiar sights and thought...gee wouldn't it be great to get a picture of this.  That's when it hit me.   Or more specifically that's when nothing happened.  I turned the camera on and nothing showed up on the LCD screen on top of the camera.   I switched it off and on again and still nothing.  This is when I hit the camera on the side in my usual Neanderthal method of fixing things and still nothing.  It was dead.  Then I tried the second battery that I had and still nothing.  Dead. Dead. Dead.

I went on the Internet and someone suggested taking out the little watch battery in the battery compartment that stores all of the state information for the camera.  I actually didn't even know that battery existed so that was interesting to discover.  Not the typical way I would like to find out about stuff like that but interesting none the less.  Anyway, this did nothing too.

When I got back to the Golden State I called Canon support again and after the usual rigamarole of questions making sure a real battery is in the compartment and that I actually switched the right switch to turn things on they suggested I send it in.  A week later it comes back and guess what the problem was?   Drum roll please....


Huh?  Yes, sand.  We took a vacation to Hawaii in the Summer and I guess sand got into the battery compartment and shorted the system.  I have an electrical engineering degree and I had no idea sand had such power.  Of course I barely got my degree but that's another story.   I guess I've now figured out the difference between a professional camera like the Canon 1Ds and my camera - one can look sand in the face and scoff and the other can't.

Anyway, before you send your camera into some repair shop and pay UPS exorbitant amounts of money for the privilege, please try to get one of those can's of air and blow into your battery compartment to try to blow sand out or take a vacuum cleaner to see if you can suck it up.   I think this what the Canon repair people did since it didn't look like the fixed anything.  I wish the tech support people at Canon would have suggested that so I could have fixed my camera myself and taken some pictures on my vacation.  Despite what iPhone 4 users say, there is a slight difference in picture quality between a Canon 7D and an iPhone 4 -- just slightly.

iPhone 4 and Windows Phone - Swappable Sims?

Microsim Adapter for Ipad Iphone4g Convert Micro Sim to Regular Sim Adapter
I'm in a unique position in that I purchased an iPhone 4 in the Summer and just recently purchased a Windows Phone 7.  This was made possible by Mr. StevieB, CEO of Microsoft, with his generous offer of buying all employees at Microsoft a Windows Phone.   I felt a pang of loyalty and decided to take the plunge.  I'm sure that most of you out there who are not similarly compensated would never give up on their brand new shiny iPhone 4 for a shiny new AMOLED enabled Samsung Focus but if for some odd reason you are then this might be an article for you.

First off let me explain that my family and I are heavily locked into the Apple FairPlay system which is a digital rights management system from Apple.  Our first iPod was a 2G many years back and we've continued our love affair with the tiny music device with iPod shuffles, Nanos, Touches, iPhones and now iPads.  It's safe to say we have a fair amount of FairPlay content locked up in Apple's very capable licensing DRM technology.  All of which will not play on a Windows Phone.   Also with the Windows Phone being a v1.0 product I wasn't quite sure I was going to love the device enough where I could live without my iPhone.  So I basically wanted to hedge my bets.  The problem is that the iPhone 4 has a the tiny Micro-SIM and every other phone out there uses a Mini-SIM so they aren't swappable.  Problem!!!

Here's what I decided to do.  I purchased an adapter from Amazon for about $3 that converts an iPhone 4 Micro-SIM to a regular phone Mini-SIM.  Basically the adapter is a piece of plastic and the iPhone 4 SIM snaps in making it the size and dimensions of the Window Phone SIM.

I took this to my local AT&T store and asked them to use this hybrid SIM when I purchased the Windows Phone.  The sales guy told me it wouldn't work. I of course squeaky wheeled it and whined and he eventually brought out his manager.  She was very nice and told me that they just couldn't guarantee that the SIM would still work in my iPhone 4.  She also went on to explain that the iPhone has a unique data plan that is different from the Windows Phone and that even if it did work I would lose some features like Visual Voicemail since the Windows Phone didn't have that feature.  I then plopped my iPhone 4 SIM hybrid converter thingy into the Windows Phone and they proceeded to provision it.

The Windows Phone launched and everything worked.  After I brought it home I popped the SIM out of the converter and put it into my iPhone 4 and it also seemed to work.  Now I don't know if AT&T gets some signal that says I've switched and then could in theory turn it off but it worked for the brief time I tried it.

Since I've switched to my Windows Phone permanently I haven't tried it again but my guess is that it still works.  Anyway, I thought I would blog about this since it might be something people were wondering about.  I'm guessing this will be primarily for my fellow Microsofties who are doing similar things or maybe on the slim chance that you are one of those people who are fed up with dropped calls from the iPhone 4.

Anyway happy SIM converting....

12/27/2010 UPDATE:  So far so good.  It's been about a month or so and no issues with this SIM card.

1/31/2011 UPDATE Part 2: Ahh well I just tried it again and I guess the data part of this equation never worked.  The phone worked fine but the data plan didn't.  I think what happened before was that when I tried to do data things I was actually using my Wi Fi network and not the 3G data network.  Now when I try it without the WiFi I get the error message that there is no Cellular Data Network available.  Bummer.

I added a MicroSD Card to my Windows Phone Samsung Focus and it worked

As many of you Samsung Focus owners already know we got the great screen but the lame 8GB of memory.  Well no problem since there is a MicroSD card slot, right?  Ah...hum...well not exactly.   If you opened up your iPad (or other web reading device) and started to read Engadget you probably were not too happy when you read about the 'Windows Phone 7 microSD mess' story.  Yah me too.  WTF?

Basically the flash memory card has to be of a particular tolerance and quality or the phone gets into a bad state.  I guess it makes sense given that the Windows Phone OS will combine the 2 flash memory items into a one single giant drive with data spread across the 2.  Of course if any part of the memory sucks, this could confuse the OS and mess everything up resulting in the phone rebooting and losing data.  I think the really interesting tidbit here is how bad and unreliable flash memory production is because a lot of flash memory cards simply won't work including many from big name manufacturers like Sandisk and Lexar.

So begins this new adventure in tech....

First Things First
So I Binged it and read as much as I could about the problem and the solution.  One of the best sites I found was WM Power User and they pointed me to XDA Developers which is a site that is hosting a grand list of flash cards, their manufacturers and the class or speed of the cards that appear to be working and the one's that aren't.

The Purchase
Well I was a little nervous since you can't just buy flash memory, open up the Fort Knox-level impenetrable plastic sheathing that encapsulates the card and then return it if it doesn't work.  In other words there was a real possibility that I would have to eat it if the card didn't work.  Here's my very scientific and painstakingly researched decision on what to buy:

  1. There was no way in hell I was going to buy 8GBs since that's what the phone should have come with in the first place.  I needed more memory than that to feel like I got the better deal and that I wasn't a schmuck.
  2. Wow 32 GBs costs something like $100 and that's real money.  I'm not going to risk it.
So I settled on 16 GBs.   When I first read the list, all of the San Disks were failing so I decided to go with Kingston.  Of course now that I look at the list all of the SanDisk 16GBs are working so go figure.  Anyway, I searched at Best Buy.  Nothing.  I searched at Costco.  Nothing.  I even searched at Office Depot and Verizon and nothing.  So I went to a local store called Fry's Electronics and nothing.   Well they actually had something but it wasn't the Kingston brand that I was looking for and I really didn't want to eat the $50 bucks if I didn't have to.  Of course at this point I'm extremely frustrated that no one sells Kingston branded memory.  Fry's did but they were out of the 16GB.  They had other brands of 16 GB MicroSD cards but not Kingston.  Oh my what to do?  Buy the Kingston 8GB and feel like a schmuck or roll the dice with the no name 16 GB memory and possibly eat $50.  

Being the highly decorated in the trenches tech geek that I am I decided to get a little extra help.  Actually I simply remembered that I could revisit the list of working memory cards since my Windows Phone actually has a web browser.  Wow what a cool invention.  After Binging it and reading through the list I discovered that PNY 16 GB cards supposedly work.  Fry's had a Polaroid branded PNY card so I took the plunge and plunked down my hard earned $43.69.  By the way it's cheaper at Amazon so I would highly recommend clicking on this link to purchase the flash card.

The Test
I came speeding home and before I proceeded to give this thing a try I first had to give the boss the heads up that I may have just thrown away $50 bucks on memory that might not work.  My wife looked disgusted.   I smiled and continued to get the diamond cutting tools so I could open the vacuum sealed plastic casing.  After a few minutes, I finally opened the package, took out the memory, opened my phone, dropped the flash card in and then did the 3 finger salute to reformat my phone - VOLUME DOWN, CAMERA BUTTON, POWER KEY.  Nothing.  I then turned on the phone and tried again.   This time I got the message that asked if I wanted to reformat my phone.  I nervously clicked OK.  In a matter of minutes it was done and rebooted.  It came up fine.  I checked settings and the phone said I had 22 GB.  I'm not sure why it's not 24 GBs but close enough for government work.  I then synced the phone with tons of videos, pictures and music to stress the memory and to see if I could get it to fail.  After this was done I shut the phone down and turned it back on.  This is the stage when it supposedly went south for others.  I also decided to take out my battery and to reboot the phone again just in case.  So far it's been running for about 5 hours and everything appears to be working well.  I'll let you know if anything comes up in the next few days.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  It's far too cold to be sleeping in the dog house.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Adventure With My New Windows Phone 7

Samsung Focus Windows Phone (AT&T)

For my first real post I thought I would take you through my journey learning, experimenting and using my new Windows Phone 7.  Of course this could be career limiting since I do work for the "former" evil empire.  I say "former" because I think Google is the shiny "new" king of that crown.   I know, I know it's pretty terrible to say that using Google servers and writing my blog on their free service but it had to be said.  This blog will aspire to always be a no spin zone kind of a place which I'm sure will get me in trouble at some point but who needs a real salary when they have a blog that earns absolutely no money.  Cool huh that I've got my priorities straight.

Anyway... back to the Windows Phone 7.  First some background.  I'm an Apple toting Mac, iPhone and iPad user.  Weird since I work at Microsoft but I'll leave that explanation to another blog post.  Also for full disclosure I didn't have to pay for my Windows Phone 7 since all Microsoft employees get one free.  You may say that I don't have enough skin in the game to be entirely unbiased and you would be correct.  In fact I come to this adventure fully wanting to love my new phone.  First and foremost since I've completely switched to it and will have to use it day in and day out.  Second being a Microsoft employee I would like to see people get excited about our products for once.  It gets old to hear all the doom and gloom from people.  Gee by the talk from some critics you think that we were going out of business or something.  Anyway, so what's my unabashed, fully biased first impressions.

I like my Windows Phone 7- Samsung Focus.

Don't get me wrong, it's not perfect, but I can honestly say that I like it and it's growing on me.

First Impressions

The Good

  • Beautiful, Bright AMOLED screen.
  • Big Lettering.  For an old guy like me with bifocals this is kind of important.
  • Dynamic Tiles - This is what the Microsoft advertising is trying to sell and it's really good.  I wish more things did it.  For example I picked the Weather Bug app over the Weather Channel app only because of the dynamic tile.  Once you get into the app itself I actually prefer the Weather Channel but the dynamic tile is the most important factor in my decision.  
  • Zune - The music app is very slick.  When you load up your music a photo and a bio of the artist gets automatically loaded into the UI.  It's very polished and adds visual flair to the music experience.
  • Hubs - These are great.  A hub is a grouping of different apps that melds them together like a single apps.  There are Hubs for Games, Office, People, etc.  In fact I wish there were more.  Why not a News hub with a top stories dynamic tile?  I tended to create this type of thing on my iPhone anyway where a single page of apps were generally grouped together by topic or content type.  Games on one page and News on another.   The Windows Phone takes it one step further by making it a tightly integrated part of the OS.  But again there needs to be more of these and not less.
  • Facebook integration.  I really like that Facebook is integrated into people and that it's really easy to see what's going on with friends and to comment on their wall.  I wish there was more integration.
  • Did I mention the beautiful screen?
The Not So Great

  • Real tactile hardware buttons or lack there of - There's something to be said for iPhone's single button at the bottom of the phone.  When in doubt, click it.  The simplicity is important but something even more critical that I didn't fully appreciate until now is the fact that it's a hardware button and not a touch sensitive screen-based button.   What does this mean in terms of Windows Phone 7 and more specifically the Samsung Focus implementation of the phone?  Well many of my gripes are because the Focus' buttons are not real buttons.
    1. To wake your phone you have to click the On/Off button on the right side of the phone.  I totally miss the ease of just clicking on the iPhone single button on the front of the phone which is entirely intuitive and easy to do.   I always find myself clicking on the Windows Logo button (which is conveniently located in the same spot as the iPhone button) and briefly getting frustrated that the phone doesn't wake.  Then I suddenly remember and contort my fingers in awkward ways to wake my Win phone. which further makes me annoyed by the entire process.
    2. I mysteriously always end up in Bing.  You see the search button is in the bottom right of the screen and it's easy to accidentally swipe and hit this button which naturally launches Bing.  Now I love Bing and it's photo front page but not when I'm trying to check out the latest news or play a game.  Good thing there is a back button but speaking of back buttons...
    3. How do I get back.  On the iPhone one could argue that having a software only back button is limiting and that the Windows Phone implementation is actually better where the Back button is always located in the same spot on the phone.  Well it doesn't really work out that way.  Maybe because it's never lit so there's not a reminder that there is a back button but when I use WIndows Phone 7 I constantly find my self wondering how to get back only to remember that I have to hit the back button on the phone and not in the app like I do on my iPhone.  I think most of the above items could have been solved if Samsung implemented real hardware buttons.
  • Lack of Apps.  I think this will be solved over time but there is a lack of key apps now.  Like I wish there was UrbanSpoon, Kindle or New York Times.  I'm sure many of the best apps will eventually show up but in this early adopter stage it's a bit painful to go from "there's an app for that" to "there's an app for that but on another phone". 
  • Doesn't run iPhone apps, movies or music.  Well I think it has to be said.  If you're already an iPhone, iPod or iPad user it's kind of tough to switch since any purchased apps, music, movies or other stuff won't play on the Windows Phone.   In fact you'll have to buy them all again.  That kind of sucks.  
  • No Favorite Contacts - Going to the people app to find someone is kind of painful.  I wish they allowed you to create a favorite list like on the iPhone so you can just get to the people you contact the most.   
In Conclusion
The Windows Phone team should be very proud of what they accomplished.  They didn't just build an iPhone clone but instead developed a unique and pretty exciting phone experience.  Believe me that's pretty hard to do in a big company like Microsoft and is truly amazing that they made it happen.  I'm using my Win Phone full time and haven't missed my iPhone yet and actually as I play with the various free apps I'm liking the overall experience more and more.  The user experience translates well.  In particular I think the Facebook and Open Table apps are actually better than their iPhone counterparts partly because of the Windows Phone user experience. 

If you have already bought into the Apple ecosphere and have apps, music and other stuff under this umbrella I don't think you should move.   The iPhone is still a great phone and Apple is continuing to innovate and come out with great stuff.  However, if you aren't locked into that world I think the Windows Phone 7 is a pretty compelling smart phone that you should check out.  I'm not going to switch back.  One of the benefits of the Windows Phone is that it ties really nicely into a Microsoft IT corporate environment which we obviously use at Microsoft so SharePoint, Office, Exchange and Sky Drive are all part of the DNA of the phone and work really well.    Plus if I stick with this phone I don't have to fear SteveB stepping on my phone at a Company Meeting.

I'm a Windows Phone 7 convert.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

On the Bleeding Edge

Wow.  What is it and I'm starting a blog.  I'm like grandpa who proudly tells you that he just got a My Space account not realizing everyone else has moved on to Facebook.  D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R.   Well this sad tale gets even worse since I actually work in high tech.  More specifically I've worked at Microsoft for over 13+ years off and on with a few stints at Claris, Apple, Lotus Development, Nortel and a bunch of start up companies along the way.   I live in SiliconValley for heaven's sake.  Before time ticks completely away I've decided to finally defend my tech props and write a blog.

So what does one write about for their first blog?

Well I've chosen to write about tech.  Gee, what a surprise.  Quite honestly I don't know much of anything else.  I'm a total geek.  I don't watch football.  I don't coach my son's soccer team.  (Of course my son is like his dad and doesn't play soccer but that's besides the point.)   What I do know is technology.  I work in the industry but more accurately I buy a lot of gadgets and stumble just like the rest of you on trying to figure out how they work.   I also spend a lot of time...far too much time or so my wife says...researching and reading up on how to get my stuff to work.  I can't let the wife be right that I've totally wasted our hard earned money on some crap that doesn't do anything.   Since most of you aren't like me and actually have lives I thought it might make sense for me to write about my experiences with my gadgets so you can learn from my experimentations and don't have to waste time doing your own experimenting.  Call it my public service to all the guys out there who are like me and have to fight the evil dragons of complexity on an odyssey of gadget discovery.

Hence the title...My Adventures in Tech.  

Welcome.   I hope these few steps lead to an interesting and fruitful exchange of gadget knowledge and geekdom using that hot new bleeding edge technology of people journalism called blogging.  Take it away maestro....