Category Archives: Consumer electronics

Samsung HD753LJ SATA HDD 750 GB

Samsung HD753LJ

Despite all SMART values being way above thresholds my internal 500 GB Samsung was giving up on me which I realized when I suddenly couldn’t copy over a file to my external Samsung Spinpoint F DT USB backup disc. A deep scan with Samsung’s ES Tool revealed several defective LBAs so I cloned the entire disc to said external to swap them. When I booted up my machine the new disc wasn’t detected by my board’s VIA 8237 RAID controller revealing the flaw I’d overlooked so far:

SATA interface speed cannot be switched to 1.5 Gb/s!

Apart from SATA’s touted backwards and forwards compatibility which should ensure operating a 3.0 drive on a 1.5 connector the manual on Samsung’s product page explicitely mentions a SATA 1.5 Gb/s Speed Limit Jumper setting to avoid speed negotiation issues on older motherboards. The manual however depicts 8 jumper pins whereas the HD753LJ has only 4 (!) none combination of which does any good.

So I tried both patch downloads mentioned in the FAQ to set the speed via software on a friend’s PC whose motherboard can stomach 3.0 devices attached to it. Curiously enough both tools do not show the current setting so to verify patch results you gotta boot ES Tool again. 3 boot CDs, how’s that for convience?

Of course applying the patches did not work as confirmed by Samsung support the next day. I’d tried to contact them by mail but their German support form did not list my drive model so I had to call the hotline which failed to call me back. When I called again the next day the droid on the phone had no explanation on why manual and support form where out of date nor what the 4 jumper pins are supposedly used for (since they are not used for master/slave or 32 GB clip settings anymore).

Samsung – what’s the (Spin)point?

Update, August 6th

I’ve just read on a german forum that only after using the second tool on Samsung’s FAQ page ES-Tool 2.11 would get a new option ‘Set Max UDMA’ which at last would allow adjusting interface speed (‘process’ ). Can anyone please confirm that with a comment. I’ve already sold my Samsung and got a WD but I’d really like to know if Samsung tried to fix this flaw.

Update, November 4th

Since I’d sold my drive to a friend I was able to test it again yesterday at his computer and now it worked for me too! I was able to switch SATA speed setting by doing it as Ken Cowin suggested: set to 3.0 GB in SSpeed instead of 1.5! It appears whoever coded the tool accidentally labeled the routines the wrong way cause after using SSpeed I could verify (and even change) speed with ES Tools and option ‘Set Max UDMA’.

Update, June 6th 2010
As mentioned in the comments apparently the current version of ESTool does the job just fine. Can’t test it myself cause I’ve switched to WD Green in the meantime.

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Philips DVP3260 DVD-Player with USB

Philips DVP3260 DVD-Player with USB

They’ve done it again! At least that’s what I thought while I was browsing the dvd player section of a retail chain here in my town where I noticed a bunch of returned Philips players. The packaging had clearly been opened before so I took the liberty of checking out the manual and as you may have guessed already the device appears to be limited by a serious flaw: 640 files max! Now that I’ve had the chance to borrow a friend’s unit for tesing it turns out:

Philips manuals suck!

MCM 393: Number of albums/folders: maximum 99, Number of tracks/titles: maximum 500

DVP 3260: The unit can only support up to a maximum of 300 folders and 648 files.

Just compare both entries above, the MCM can play a total of 500 songs, the DVP 648 songs per folder! You couldn’t derive this from the wording? Well neither could I!

Of course the DVP cannot handle FAT32‘s 65535 entries per folder. Still this is a vast improvement over the puny 500 files of the MCM393.

It’s kind of ironic though that the lack of official USB HDD support is allegedly due to the large storage capacity making navigation very difficult rather than the filebrowser’s embarrassing limit of 14 (!) chars! The real problem of course lies in USB powered 2.5″ HDDs which sometimes draw too much power so that compatibility cannot be assured. Of course Philips wouldn’t bother to write this valuable info into their manuals either.

But what do you expect from a company that’s too stupid to list the firmware update’s version number on their support page? Hey, there’s a new one out on October the 10th 2008! Your newly bought player reveals the version number but not the firmware date it is using. So do you upgrade or not? I’ve written a FAQ that might help you decide.

Philips – they just don’t get it!

Motorola Razr V3

Motorola Razr V3

Admittedly I got hooked on this one’s iconic design when I saw it mentioned in a computer magazine some years ago half a year prior to it’s release. When it finally hit the market I’d already gotten another cell phone from my carrier. Thus when I switched to prepaid two years later everybody else already got it so I could get a new one cheap on Ebay. Despite it’s wide adoption one of it’s major flaws unfortunately had eluded me for all this time:

None of the five (!) keys on the closed flip can be used to deflect incoming calls!

I kid you not! Despite the external display’s major feature to enable you to “see who’s calling without opening the flip” you still gotta open it (thereby taking the call) cause only 3 of those keys trigger functions with the flip closed. I actually had to mod my device just to get this basic function working.

Motorola, design over usability!

Sony CDX-GT414U car MP3 CD Player with USB slot

Sony CDX-GT414U

Remember my mental note to check out products myself instead of relying on other’s recommandations? This time I got lured into a retailer’s shop cause they advertized a bargain on one of those car mp3 CD players featuring an USB slot which would finally save me from having to burn my own mixes to CD-RW. Since they assured me it could play more than a puny 500 tracks from USB and I had ample time to test and compare it to others mounted alongside the wall in the shop, what could go wrong? Unfortunately I didn’t realize the flaw until I drove home that night:

The USB slot faces the stick’s LED towards the driver!

Thus you always have this distracting blinking light in the right corner of your eye while driving at night. The clip I made of this effect doesn’t quite convey the annoyance it causes:

Yeah, I know, Sony :(

The company that always thinks to know better thus flooding the market with proprietary technology like ATRAC, Mini Disc, Memory Stick, UMD and so on despite consumers ignoring these schemes. Was I too stupid despite being warned by Sony’s track record? Afraid so…

A friend of mine who was riding shotgun in my car made a good point: why does the LED have to blink in the first place? But since this apparently is agreed upon by manufacturers I tried to verify my suspicions which turned out to be correct: all USB-sticks I’ve seen so far (which is a lot) do have the LED on the same side in reference to the connector and only Sony has the slot facing inwards, all other players I’ve checked (by Kenwood, Alpine, JVC, Blaupunkt, Clarion) have their slot installed the other way round so the stick’s LED blinks facing outward. This can’t be due to left-hand traffic in Japan either cause this would require the main controls (volume, skip, source) to be placed on the driver side too.

Sony knows best… not!

P.S. Aren’t you just thrilled by the caution alarm the front panel makes to keep you from forgetting it in the car?

Brother MFC-215C All-in-One Printer

Brother MFC-215C

The small company I mentioned in one of my previous articles had recently been incoporated into a bigger one and their office been demoted to a mere depot which resulted in several cutbacks including a phone lines switch from ISDN (2 lines, 3 phone numbers) to analogue (1 line, 1 number), 2 phones to 1 and no fax. Since reality however refused to abide by company policy they still needed to receive faxes on a daily basis so I replaced their busted printer/fax anyway. Unfortunately it also came with an unexpected flaw:

Fax receive ring delay limited to 4 times!

Again the ladies were less than thrilled having to sprint from the other room to reach the phone in time to prevent the fax from taking the call. Since fax and phone had to be connected to a an All-In-One router/telephone system rather than an external phone jack there was no way to switch the fax to one of it’s other modes.

Still, why not allow a higher ring delay in the first place? I was irritated enough to call the expensive Brother support which instructed me by fax (go figure) on a lengthy procedure to unlock the device’s hidden maintenance mode to increase the ring delay to 10 times max. I didn’t get any satisfactory answer though as to why these options weren’t available by default.

So much for Brother Solutions!

Iomega Screenplay 500GB

iomega Screenplay 500GB

Though I intended to continue with a fax machine I’m bringing forward this one. Cause after 25 days I’ve given up on waiting for a reply by the Iomega online store support to confim the Screenplay having

no ISO support!

I know, I know, who in their right mind would buy from Iomega given the way they handled the click-of-death debacle? Still, I saw this in an ad and the guy from the retail chain was kinda cool. When asked about ISO support he admitted to not knowing about it and offered me to refund my money within 10 days after purchase no questions asked.

So after copying over all the TV shows I’d recorded with my DVB-S card I hooked it up to my TV and was satisfied with the prospect of not having to burn those to DVD+RW anymore just to watch them on my own schedule. For my DVD backups I always rip to ISO so I can batch burn with ImgBurn instead of Nero bloatware. So I ripped some of those discs too, after all Iomega went for NTFS instead of FAT32 and so it would certainly play ISOs albeit not specifically mentioned in the product description. But of course it doesn’t and it won’t even after a firmware upgrade as was confirmed on the Iomega support forums. So I’m wondering, why not try to compete on features with other products like the Trekstor moviestation maxi which does support ISO (but comes with it’s own flaw: no Dolby Digital 5.1 output, LOL!).

I just don’t get it why almost every other device out there (MP3 Player, USB stick, multimedia harddrives, you name it) is using FAT(32). Sure having a fast, stable and patent-unencumbered Open Source filesystem that’s not tied to Micros~1 in any way would outweigh the hassle of having to install a driver prior to first use?

Siemens Euroset 5035 analog phone

Siemens Euroset 5035

As an IT freelancer I spend my spare time between projects on small jobs for SOHOs in my area. This does not only require configuring their Internet access, LAN and servers but occasionally involves buying and setting up stuff. So when I was asked to install an inexpensive analog corded phone (and a fax machine, more on this in my next article) on short notice, I just stopped by at the next retail chain’s store and bought according to specs skipping previous research and product comparisons. I wish I hadn’t, as it turns out the Euroset has an unexpected flaw:

one has got to press OK to confirm the number dialled!

Being used to phones I simply hooked it up, dialled a number, lifted the handset to my ear and waited for the call to get through but nothing happened. I tried it a few times checking chords, power and number in the process but to no avail. Of course I didn’t expect anything to be wrong with my method of dialling, after all that’s the way I’ve been doing it with all the phones around me over the years, that’s how it is supposed to work, right? Wrong!

I hadn’t taken into account the ingenuity of the Siemens engineers when it comes to breaking usability and coming up with new and exciting ways to improve best practice. As explained in the manual one has got to dial the number, press OK and only then lift the handset (and – for whatever reason – wait two secs) before the call is made! Of course they didn’t pay attention to consistency. When you want to use the speakerphone instead, you simply dial and press the loudspeaker button skipping the OK button entirely. Now where is the sense in that (assuming of course this is a criteria in the development process)?

Dialling with the handset on the hook you can easily add pauses, R-key functions or correct ciphers and then lift the headset thereby confirming your choice of making the call. Why the heck is it required to give an extra confimation with the OK button (OK)? Needless to say the ladies at the reception were less than thrilled having to adapt to the weird way of Siemens engineer thinking to get on with their calls.

Siemens Euroset 5035: OK by me… NOT!